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Hearty Salad Bowl or "Heaping-Pile-Of-Delicious Food"*

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“Hearty Salad Bowl or “HEAPING PILE OF DELICIOUS FOOD”"      

(This version emphasizes the GREEK SALAD aspect; also in the "Salad" section)


For me, variations of this “salad” are a staple, and my secret weapon for a healthy lifestyle.  I eat it almost every day, never get tired of it and always look forward to it.   Probably the single best advice for a healthy diet is: “Eat a salad every day the size of your head.”   This simple bit of advice may be the secret of weight loss and reaching health goals.   I see so many people struggling with their weight, trying to control food cravings . . . just because they’re not eating this every day.  It’s not that hard, people!  Most of these ingredients are super-foods: the more you eat, the more weight you *lose*! 

I believe the dressing has to be oil-free to get the health benefits.  There are many variations to the dressing below.  If you made the salad very tasty with a variety of ingredients, the only dressing you may need is a little balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.  Usually, the basic dressing is (balsamic) vinegar and a smaller amount of tamari or soy sauce, with a ratio of about 3 to 1 or 4 to 1.  Common optional additions are garlic, prepared mustard (not too much) and/or tahini.    Tahini is high in fat of course, but it’s a minimally processed food: just ground sesame seeds, far healthier than oil.  And it’s very flavorful so you don’t need much. 

BTW, another category of delicious food that allows people to achieve their health goals is soup.  Studies have shown that a salad OR soup before the rest of your meal, causes people to eat less and lose weight.  Unlike a glass of water, the water in soup or veggies comes with fiber so it’s satisfying and fills you up.   The salad, soup or both might end up as your whole meal if you like. 

The word “salad” might be a turn-off, but this is more like a “bowl” or a “stir-fry” (without the frying).  In some variations it's like a “salsa” which you can have over, or with, potatoes, beans, beans & rice, etc. 

Some of the ingredients below are optional, like bell peppers, and maybe cucumber.  But IMO, I would not want to omit the carrots, tomatoes or purple onions.  And a variety of ingredients tends to make dishes better. 

The high-fat ingredients, (nuts or avocado) make this very rich and delicious.  You don’t need both.  If the plain version isn’t exciting enough, nuts, or especially avocado, transform this into “amazing.”   Unlike oils, these have healthy fats (but still a lot of calories so go easy if trying to lose weight.   A small amount of (healthy) fat with a salad or with veggies helps absorb some of the nutrients.  If you’re looking to get omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are one of the best sources;  a half-handful of walnuts a day is more than enough.  You can store walnuts in the freezer to help you avoid snacking, and to keep them fresh.  If you tend to snack on nuts, it’s probably better not to keep them in your house.   You can add nuts just to the portion being consumed so they stay crunchy.

INGREDIENTS:   (veggies should be coarsely chopped:  not too small)

Cucumber  (about half of one cucumber)
Tomato      (about three)
Purple Onion (about one, coarsely chopped)
Bell pepper   (about one)   (OPTIONAL)
Carrots     (about three large)
Large handful of chopped fresh parsley 
Cut-up black olives    (about one third cup)  (OPTIONAL)
Walnut pieces  (about a quarter cup or less - may skip if using avocado.  
OPTIONAL:  Black pepper to taste (about ¼ - ½ teaspoon)
OPTIONAL:  Dried dill weed (one or more TBSP)  (or a small pile of chopped fresh dill) 
AND/OR Dried thyme to taste 
Nuts (such as walnut pieces)
OPTIONAL:  Cut up avocado.  
(See “Optional Add-Ins” below)

(Note: quantities are arbitrary and way more than you would need for one salad) 
Don't add dressing ingredients directly, mix them separately, then add just the right amount to your dish. 

3 – 4 TBSP of balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (preferably fresh)
1 TBSP of tamari or soy sauce 
STOP RIGHT THERE – the other ingredients are optional.  But if you want . . . 
OPTIONAL:  Several garlic cloves processed through a garlic press
OPTIONAL: small amount of prepared dijon mustared
OPTIONAL:  Totally unnecessary, but a small amount of grated or diced raw ginger can be interesting.  (Don’t add too much!!)
NOTE:  Some people add something sweet to dressings, like agave (or sugar), but I don’t; not needed!
OPTIONAL: Several TBSP of tahini, but this might make it creamy, which not everyone likes. 


  • Cut up the salad ingredients EXCEPT THE WALNUTS and toss.  (Add the walnuts to the portion being consumed so they stay crunchy).
  • Mix the Dressing ingredients separately, only to the portion being consumed!  Mix in a little at a time; don’t over-do it, save the rest for later: versatile, alo great with veggies, potatoes, etc.  


  • Cooked beans
  • Cooked veggies
  • Apple or pear pieces or blueberries
  • Sliced mushrooms dry-fried in a non-stick pan, with a little vinegar, and a splash of tamari or soy sauce at the end.  Note that, if using mushrooms, olives are not needed.
  • Cooked tofu pieces (pressed and cut-up tofu dry-fried in a non-stick pan until crispy). 
  • Cooked corn
  • Pepperoncini
  • Roasted sweet-potato pieces (cubed raw sweet potato baked in oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes)
  • Salad greens: lettuce, or healthier greens like cabbage or arugula.  (Personally, I usually do not add the healthiest greens, like kale or collards, which are more bitter; I get these into my diet in other ways, especially by adding to soups).  
  • Cooked whole-wheat macaroni (not the healthiest ingredient, but not bad and can add flavor or variety)


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Hearty Salad Bowl - Some More Options*

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Hearty Salad Bowl - More Options

(This version emphasizes the stir-fry,  rice and/or beans and/or cole-slaw possibilities)


  • (There’s usually nothing “fried,” but sometimes ingredients are cooked in a frying pan without oil).
  • This is a staple, indispensable, with endless variations, and absolutely delicious.  I make this almost every day.
  • Often “rice and beans” is the starting point, but it might be (whole wheat) pasta and beans, potato and beans, or beans by themselves, or maybe just cabbage with no beans, as the starting point.
  • Cole Slaw is a simple version of this: shredded cabbage, carrots, dressing  (maybe with a few beans,  pasta or rice, etc. – or maybe just cabbage, sweet onions and dressing).
  • Everything here is optional and can be mixed and matched.  Some of my more common ingredients: Brown rice, beans, cut-up tomatoes, raw purple or sweet onion and some dressing – is all you need: delicious.
  • Cooked corn kernels are a *delicious* addition.   (Steamed frozen corn kernals).
  • Starch is a comfort food, so one or more of the following healthy unrefined carbohydrates may hit the spot: brown rice, corn (like I mentioned), cut-up potatoes (delish, maybe add them near the end already or almost cooked, since they tend to stick on the frying pan), whole wheat pasta (not quite as healthy but a little goes a long way)
  • Tomatoes pieces.
  • Raw onions (purple, or Vidalia “sweet” onions) are my most common added veggies.
  • Cooked (yellow) onions.   Be careful not to over-cook, they should still be crunchy.  Recommend frying for one or two minutes on one side in a non-stick pan, without stirring, until brown on one side.
  • Steamed veggie pieces like broccoli, squash, etc.
  • chopped parsley or cilantro
  • Sliced mushrooms sautéed in advance, without oil or salt, in a non-stick pan.
  • Greens!   Shredded or chopped raw greens: cabbage, collard greens, kale, etc. makes this much                                  healthier!  Can be lightly cooked or raw.  (Cabbage is especially good raw).
  • Crunch!   Raw Vidalia onions are crunchy (they have to be sweet enough to eat raw;  some “sweet” onions are too strong to be eaten raw, but purple or especially Vidalia can reliably be eaten raw.  Carrots or water chestnuts add crunch.   
  • Nuts or raisins to the rescue.  Nuts are always delicious and always make this taste even better, you don’t need many.  Be careful if you’re trying to lose weight.  Likewise with avocado or raisins, also calorie dense – but delicious.
  • I’ve learned to love this without salt or oil.  Beginners can try adding salt or oil, but will soon learn they’re not needed.  I don’t cook the rice or beans with salt anymore, but beginners may want to use some salt when cooking rice.
  • A cooking principle is that things taste better in combination.
  • It's important to prepare some basic ingredients in advance and keep on hand (in the freezer), such as multiple 2-cup Pyrex containers of cooked brown rice, and beans.

For photos and examples:    


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No-Recipe Bowls*

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macaroni_kale_2_exp.jpgSee the Hearty Salad Bowl "recipes" in this section for more ideas!    This Macaroni - Kale - Veggie Thing on the left was phenomenally delicious... and quick!  No recipe needed!  This version included chopped kale, dill (fresh or dried), tomato, raw purple onions, whole-wheat macaroni (cooked without salt) and walnuts.  You can't see it in the photo but it was tossed with one of our favorite dressings:  lemon tahini (made with low-fat tahini). 

You could use collard greens or lettuce instead, etc., walnuts are optional, could use spaghetti, rice, corn or other grains instead of macaroni, or even cut-up baked sweet potato.  You could add in some lightly cooked veggies (zucchini, green peppers, or broccoli, celery, etc.; I like to briefly dry-fry them in a non-stick pan).  It's nice to have some *mild* onions around, like purple onions or Vidalia, so you can throw them in raw. 

If you like this dressing, and keep it handy in the fridge, the rest is super-fast.  Buying pre-cut greens, or cutting them yourself in advance, also makes this quick.


To the right is another variation of whatever you call this sort of thing.
I'll call this one Cabbage-Rice Medley

This had brown rice, raw cabbage, peas (frozen peas, steamed) and mango, with a few dried herbs, and dressing (lemon tahini again). 

Instead of mango, you could use raisins, apple pieces (sprinkled with lemon juice so they don't brown).  You get the idea:  Whatever!


 veggies_frying_exp.jpgI guess I'll call this ...

Chick Pea, Pasta Stir-fry Prima Vera  

Step 1:  First I dry-fried carrots, onions, & peppers in a non-stick pan (i.e., no oil). Don't over-cook.  In the photo there's a pile of cabbage which I didn't cook.  




 Step 2:  With some chick peas and some whole-wheat macaroni, it's done, all except for some dressing. 




DRESSING NOTES:  Lemon-tahini dressing or vinegar-tamari-tahini, are staples.  To either of these you could add a little prepared mustard, garlic powder, or pepper.  Dried dill weed is a great addition to any dressing or stir-fry, IMO.  It's usually easier to make dressings yourself since store-bought low-fat or no-fat dressings tend to be awful.  Or use a little Hoi Sin sauce, or BBQ sauce (which contain sugar) if you feel like you need it sweet, though we generally recommend avoiding sugar.  You want to avoid oil which would tend to undermine the health benefits of the salad.  The nutrient - to - calorie ratio is what counts.  Oil is pure fat, a highly processed food, is not a healthy ingredient.  But a little healthy fat from nuts, avocados or seeds (tahini) may increase absorption of micronutrients.  A small handful of nuts is all you need for this.  If the dish is has a flavorful variety of ingredients, then a little lemon or lime juice may the only dressing you need.   




Let's call this Kidney Bean & Cabbage Surprise!

Step 1: Lightly dry-fry some veggies in a non-stick pan, just enough to caramelize (sweeten & get browned or a little black in places), but still crunchy.  Letting them sit in the pan without stirring will achieve this effect without over-cooking them.  Try to under-cook rather than over-cook.  Pictured are onions, carrots & celery. The tendency is to cook them too long, so be careful.  Alternatively you could just steam them if you like.





Step 2:  Throw in some raw cabbage and some cooked beans (pictured are black & kidney beans). 








Step 3:
With a little dressing, this turned out really good.





THE SKY'S THE LIMIT:  You can pretty much include any of the above ingredients with any others.  If your creation tastes too plain you can always jazz it up with something extra, such as corn, pasta, beans, nuts, avocado, raisins, dressing, or herbs.  (Nuts, avocado and raisins are famous for making things more delicious).    

Not just the boy scout's motto, it's the key to eating well.  You can cook rice, barley or other grains ahead & store in the fridge or freezer.  Some of this involves shopping strategy; you may want to favor cabbage, carrots, onions etc. which can be stored for longer periods than some other veggies.  

Beans:  Make sure to keep canned beans around; they're a lifesaver (literally).  Even better, to avoid the expense, salt, and BPA (the harmful chemical that comes in everything canned), soak, cook, and freeze your own in advance.  Freeze in canned-sized (or two-canned size) batches since most recipes call for a "15 oz. can" of beans.  One 15 oz can = about 1 1/2 cooked beans =  8 ounces cooked beans by weight.  They cook fast in a pressure cooker (as do some slow-cooking grains like brown rice & black rice).  In a pinch you can defrost frozen items quickly on the low setting of the microwave.

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Potatoes may be natures perfect food.  They're an inexpensive, healthy, and ultra-convenient whole food that is extremely satisfying.  

Sweet potatoes have more fiber than white, and are nutritional and flavor powerhouses. 

Sweet or white potatoes are most delicious baked, but can also be microwaved, steamed, boiled, or fried (without oil).  You can bake them at 400 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes.  Hint: Do this often; always have some baked potatoes in your fridge!  (I like to boil them if I'm making mashed potatoes)

Please, *don't* add butter, margarine or sour cream! 

Sweet potatoes, especially, don't need salt. They're fabulous straight-up for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack, maybe with a little cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice.

White potatoes seem to go with a greater variety of spices (try garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, hot sauce, vinegar, rosemary, etc.). Some people feel they need a little salt on white potatoes, but they're actually delicious without it.

Once cooked & possibly spiced, you can eat the potatoes as is, or slice them and caramelize the slices in a dry non-stick pan for a little crunch and an elegant look. 

You can broil potato wedges for a little crunch.  You may want to spice them first, maybe after adding a little water so the spice sticks.  (see Potato Wedges)

White potatoes go well with sauteed onion, and other veggies. 

Mash white potatoes with soy milk, pepper, and parsley, and you can throw in some cooked peas for fun. 

Mash sweet potatoes with orange juice, or orange juice concentrate, and maybe a little brandy!  (See Mashed Sweet Potato Variations)

Sweet potatoes don't store well before cooking so cook soon after purchase.

Potatoes are a healthy, whole food that is extremely low in fat.  Don't fall for the myth that they don't have enough protein: they have plenty of protein so there's no need to combine them with other food - unless you want to.

The bottom-line is:  Always keep some pre-baked potatoes in the fridge!


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