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Cabbage Bean Casserole (aka Hearty Salad Bowl) *

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'Cabbage Bean Casserole'


This could be also be called a "bowl" or "salad" (a word with potentially boring connotations).  There are many variations; at this point I eat this most days of the week, improvise almost every time, never get tired of it and always look forward to it.   

The only dressing I use nowadays is red wine vinegar, possibly because I've learned to love the taste of the other ingredients.  An optional but sure-fire way to jazz it up (if desired) is to add, on the portion you're about to eat, a very small drizzle of tahini.  This is made easier with a pourable product called 'Mighty Sesame Co. Tahini" that comes in a squeeze bottle and is completely convenient, with one ingredient: sesame seeds. Otherwise you can mix tahini with lemon juice or vinegar to make it easier to work with (and delicious).  I've tried grinding sesame seeds in a spice grinder which is OK but tahini seems to be much more noticeable.  I usually prefer the simplicity and reduced calories of going with just the vinegar, unless I think some extra zing is needed for some reason. 

Most of the ingredients are optional and I've listed those that I have personally settled on over the years.  (Though this might be another evolving phase for me).  I used to use cut-up raw carrots for their crunchiness, though I've decided it's too much work and I don't miss them. I liked cucumber for awhile, then decided I didn't.  Avocado might add appeal for some, but it's more work to get ripe avocados when you need them, and after a few years of using them in this dish I realized I actually like it better without.  Likewise with olives, which you would think would add some 'umami,' but I now feel that less is more.  I used to add a bunch of fresh garlic (chopped and sautéed first), and sometimes ginger, but no longer.  It's so much easier without these, and possibly even tastier with fewer flavors.  Raw cabbage is the main ingredient, tastier than red cabbage IMO. I like it in pieces that are as large as possible and include the stem (cut a little smaller) which is crunchy and delicious.  Lately I've added raw cut-up arugula (in small pieces) either with or instead of cabbage.  It's not as naturally delicious as cabbage, but with wine vinegar etc. etc., they are both delicious.  (You can always add more vinegar -  yum!).    

I used to add raisins but I don't keep them in the house anymore to avoid snacking on them along with a handful of nuts - too tempting.  Cut-up apple is as good if not better.  Some variations are without any fruit.  In terms of tomatoes, I can go either way.  I've decided that fresh parsley is dispensable so I haven't been using this.  

I continue to think that celery is an important ingredient; it's quick just to saw off slices from the end of the whole bunch, leaves and all. 
I *always* sprinkle walnut pieces to the portion I'm about to eat - crunchy & delicious.  

I always use ground black pepper, sometimes thyme, occasionally dill, but mostly dried mint!  I'm a big fan of dried mint - it might even have an edge over fresh mint in terms of a more subtle but wonderful flavor.  IMO there's no need to hunt down fresh mint. 



Warning: this makes a Huge amount, a three-day food supply for one person.
Reduce quantities if you’re trying this for the first time.

  • 3 cans drained cooked beans.  (=4.5 cups; I usually use 4 cups - same difference - because I don’t use cans, see below)
  • 4 - 6 cups raw cabbage, cut coarsely into large bite-size pieces
  • 1 cup chopped celery.  (to save time just chop at the end of the bunch, leaves and all)
  • 1 cup of coarsely chopped purple onion (up to 1.5 cups but if too much it's too spicy)
  • 2 cups+ unpacked chopped arugula  (optional)
  • 2 medium apples cut in pieces (~ 4 cups)
  • 3 TBSP chopped cherry peppers (aka “hots”) from a jar, if you like it spicy.   (2 TBSP are not quite enough for me) (optional)
  • 2 TBSP (OR MUCH MORE TO TASTE) of red wine vinegar. 
  • ground pepper to taste
  • dried mint to taste if desired.

  • Cut-up walnuts or other nuts -  added to the portion being consumed (to preserve crunchiness).  
  • Optional drizzle of tahini to the portion being consumed. 

  • One small can of thickly sliced water chestnuts.
  • Roasted (or otherwise cooked) veggies of your choice
  • May serve with, or mix in, rice or pasta.  (I sometimes mix in 2 - 4 cups of cooked wheat berries which are delicious and completely  unprocessed). 
  • Tofu cubes.  Tastiest IMO is pre-flavored or pre-baked tofu cut in a large dice, then sautéd until a little crunchy, with a little oil, soy sauce and maybe Asian garlic chili sauce.  Using a non-stick pan is easiest.   (*Never* heat your non-stick pan above medium heat).
  • Better than tofu is Yuba (sometimes the HoDo brand is sold in the Baltimore area at MOM's organic market; this is *not* the dried variety).  It's basically tofu but with an amazing meat-like consistency.  If you can't find it, demand that your local store supplies it and don't give up).  Likewise, cut it up and sautéd with some soy sauce and maybe asian chili garlic sauce +/- a little oil, until it's slightly crunchy). 
  • Dressing options:  lemon juice+tahini, vinegar+tahini,  +/- small amount of dijon mustard or soy sauce/tamari sauce. 


  • Combine ingredients EXCEPT THE WALNUTS AND TAHINI and toss. (Add those to the portion being consumed so the nuts stay crunchy, and so the tahini -if using- doesn't make the rest soggy). 


I find that a large supply of 2-cup Pyrex containers (with plastic lids) is indispensable for food preparation, along with adequate freezer space (I use a very small supplemental freezer in the basement).  It's cheaper, easier and healthier to buy dried beans, cook a large quantity in advance, and freeze them in these handy portions.  Likewise with rice or other starch (wheat berries!), and of course:  SOUP and CHILI.  I would never have time to actually prepare food without this system.  Instead, I just move a few Pyrex containers from the freezer to the fridge a few days before I need them. (If I forget, they can always be 'zapped').   

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Casserole / Salad Bowl Variations*

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Casserole / Salad Bowl Variations:


  • There are endless variations, and can be a staple. 
  • Often “rice and beans” are the starting point, but it might be (whole wheat) pasta or wheat berries and beans, potato and beans, or beans by themselves, or maybe just cabbage with no beans.
  • 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 is optional.  Lately I've been using brown rice, beans, cut-up tomatoes, raw purple onion and some dressing.
  • Cooked corn kernels are a tasty addition.   (Steamed frozen corn kernels).
  • Starch is a comfort food.  Although there's a myth that all "carbs" are unhealthy, unprocessed carbohydrates (starches) are perfectly healthy like brown rice or wheat-berries.  Some health authorities believe that potatoes are not completely healthy even though they're unprocessed.  However potatoes have a relatively low calorie density and can be a gratifying ingredient that may support an overall healthy plant-based diet. Sweet potatoes have more fiber.  I'm not sure what health category corn falls in, another delicious unprocessed starch.  Whole wheat pasta is highly processed but healthier than white pasta, and a little goes a long way.  
  • Tomatoes pieces.
  • Raw onions (purple, or Vidalia “sweet” onions) are among my favorite added veggies.
  • Cooked (yellow) onions, if you're 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.  With experience you can use your stop-watch to avoid stirring.  
  • Steamed veggie pieces like broccoli, squash, etc.
  • chopped parsley or cilantro
  • Sliced mushrooms sautéed in advance.
  • 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;   Raw dark green leafy vegetables can be bitter if quantities are large, but smaller quantities are delicious. 
    If they are very briefly cooked the bitterness disappears.  
  • Crunch!   If you can find a reliably sweet onion.  Vidalia onions might be "sweet" enough to eat raw, it may depend on the quantity and size of the pieces.  Cipollini onions are quite sweet (but a little pricey and small);  purple onions can reliably be eaten raw;  be careful not to overdo the quantity of any raw sweet onion.  Carrots or water chestnuts also great for crunch.   
  • Nuts and/or raisins to the rescue.  As a beginner it is possible that you will not be quite satisfied with your creation.  Rescue it with nuts and raisins, which make any dish more delicious.  Cut-up apples have the same effect (and in theory healthier than dried fruit which is calorie-dense).  Avocado can add deliciousness. Likewise with avocado or raisins, also calorie dense – but delicious.
  • This type of dish can be so delicious that salt or oil is not needed.  However, it is undeniable that these ingredients can liven up flavor, and a little goes a long way.  
  • Spices I like are ground pepper, possibly dried thyme, and dried mint!  (Believe it or not, dried mint works very well - try it!)
  • It's important to keep cooked basic on hand in the freezer such as beans (purchased dry in bulk), brown rice, or wheat berries e.g. Make large quantities and freeze in 2-cup Pyrex containers.  

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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