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Forgive me, Whole Foods, for I have sinned….

It’s been 2 months since my last confession…of taking one of your best dishes and taking out more than half the calories

But before you make me count a dried bean rosary–or peacefully protest on my lawn– let me state my case…

I was in desperate need of a “Southwestern” dish for the pot luck dinner before the school play.

(It was sort of “How the West was Won”…but, occasionally, seemed to happen in real time…)

And, in old timey days (when I weighed 34 pounds more), I would have felt pretty good about picking up your original dish, just as it is. Like all dried legumes, lentils are loaded with nutrition…providing protein, folate, even iron. And, according to Dr. Perricone (and Oprah), lentils are a “superfood” that we want to make part of our diet.

But just 1 cup of lentils has 230 calories!  And, if something tastes good, I have a very hard time stopping with just one cup…

But by mixing those lentils with more than double the amount of other veggies (many of them almost calorie free), a cup of this heavenly dish has less than 100 calories a cup, even more taste and texture, and still delivers a mother lode of nutrition! And without all of the extra oil in the original version, this dish can keep in the fridge without getting gummy and weird…

Which meant I could make it hours ahead, ride into the pot luck dinner without breaking a sweat, and the other parents could enjoy this dish without anyone needing an extra horse to carry them home!

So, Whole Foods, please forgive me for tinkering with your tasty dish…and maybe even bless the fact that I know now what I eat… (and what size I want to be…)


(And Yippee-Ky-Oh-Ky-Ay!)

A note about ingredients: Though any lentils also taste great in this dish, red lentils (which look orange) are SO much prettier…

But, because they’re hulled and split, they need a far shorter cooking time. The technique below really works to cook them just enough while letting them retain their color and texture.

And, if serving for a party, it’s okay to go ahead and add the chopped tomatoes and avocado the day you make it. But, if making this to eat over a couple of days, just add them at the last minute…the taste and texture will be SO much better!


2 c dried red lentils, well rinsed

1 red bell pepper, small dice

1 green bell pepper, small dice

1-2 good sized shallots, chopped fine (you can sub a half of a small red onion.)

2 medium sized Persian cucumbers, unpeeled, small dice (Do use the Persian variety…regular cukes or English cukes have thicker skins, release too much water, and have to be seeded, which is too much work.)

3 green onions, chopped fine

2-4 fresh jalapenos, seeded, minced (Fresh peppers are hard to predict…they can be really hot, or really mild. Taste as you mince and add according to how much heat you like.)

1 c frozen corn, rinsed in cold water until thawed

1 c canned or homemade black beans, rinsed (You don’t want the dark bean juice to discolor the other veg.)

1/4 c fresh cilantro, minced

4 vine-ripened tomatoes, small dice (add just before serving)

1/2 ripe avocado, small dice (add just before serving)


2 T apple cider vinegar

2 T seasoned rice wine vinegar (Note: I tried using just one or the other, one was too tart, one was too sweet…but mixed together, just right.)

1 T minced garlic (Or, if you have a garlic press, use that…the garlic juice will add loads of flavor.)

2 t olive oil

2 t dry mustard

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground coriander

1 t chili powder (regular, chipotle or ancho chili powder, whichever you prefer)

1 1/2 t salt

1 t red pepper flakes

Before you begin, chop and mince all of your vegetables except tomatoes and avocado.  (To save time, you don’t have to be precious about it…just chop as best you can and rock your large knife across until they’re cut into a small dice, or minced, depending on the veg.)

Place the veg in a bowl large enough to to hold the final dish which, without tomatoes or avocado, will yield about 12 cups.

Rinse lentils well in a sieve, agitating with your hand to remove any dust or debris. Bring 6 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan (no need to add salt) and, as soon as it boils, add lentils. Stir, and immediately turn heat down to low. Set timer for 6 minutes. (You don’t want to overcook….you want lentils to still be firm and retain their color.)

While lentils are cooking, quickly whisk together the dressing. When timer goes off, drain the lentils back into the sieve over the sink, rinse with cold water (to stop them from cooking) and give them 4-5 strong shakes and tosses to get rid of excess water.

When they are as dry as you can get them, dump into the bowl with the rest of the chopped veg (minus tomatoes and avocado), pour on the dressing and gently stir and toss until everything is well seasoned.

If you’re making to serve for a party that night, set the dish in the fridge, and chop your ripe tomatoes and put them in the sieve over a bowl for 20 minutes to drain out their excess water. While tomatoes drain, chop your avocado.

Pull the salad from the fridge, gently fold in the tomatoes and avocado, check for seasonings, adding a little more salt only if needed. (Again, if making this for your refrigerated inventory, don’t add the tomato and avocado until you’re ready to eat it.)


Fresh jalapenos are, usually, fairly mild…if you want to pump up the heat, use Serrano peppers, but mince very fine.


This recipe makes enough for a party…

But if you don’t add the tomatoes and avocado until serving, it lasts for several days in your fridge.

(And just look at the photo, that big homemade dish costs little more than the Whole Foods take out container on right…and, again, less than half the calories!)

And if this dish is in your refrigerated inventory, there are many life saving emergencies it can solve…

If you’re starving to death mid-morning or mid-afternoon, you can quickly throw some fresh spinach or lettuce in a bowl, top it with the lentils, some avocado and tomato, and have a healthy and filling snack for under 150 calories!  Or, you can add some leftover grilled veggies, some leftover roasted chicken or grilled shrimp, and make it a meal!

Or, throw yourself a party mid afternoon…

Put 1 cup of the lentils in a bowl..

Add a small diced tomato, 1 Tablespoon of avocado, and count out 10 tortilla chips…

You have a hefty little snack for about 200 calories!!

About Lisa McRee

After 25 years as a local and network anchor, Lisa was just another American mother struggling, and failing, to lose weight. Finally, she cracked the code, and lost 30 pounds, quickly and for good, by doing what she loves: reporting, cooking and eating! The Skinny is the inside story on how she did it, and how you can, too!
This entry was posted in Fit For Kids, Quickies, Skinny Salads, Skinny Sides, Skinny Snacks and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Vicki says:

    They just came out with this named salad at my local grocery store. I love it, but it is 8.00 a pound. I figured I could find it on the internet, and I was right! (but your recipe sounds even better!) thank you for sharing

  2. Sarai says:

    Hey 😀 This recipe looks amazing and I cannot wait to try it! Just had one question, how much longer would green lentils take to cook? Thanks.

    • Lisa McRee says:

      Green lentils are larger than red/orange lentils and take between 30 minutes and 45 minutes to cook depending on how old they are. But to make sure they don’t become too soft and mushy for use in a salad like this, I’d start checking them after 20 minutes…you want them to be cooked through but still a bit al dente so they’ll stand up to being dressed and tossed! lmc

  3. Tara Eitner says:

    Amazing Lisa! Can’t wait to try these out! I have been wanting to ask you you make some of these dishes…and here they are. Thanks for sharing them!

    • Lisa McRee says:

      So happy to know you’re going to try them!! And thrilled we’ll be Harvard Westlake moms together next year!! I just love your spirit, educational guidance and your friendship!! And, very grateful that you allow me, year after year, even though I always correct myself after, to to pronounce Tara like a Southern Plantation…..!!!!!

  4. Michele Gathrid says:

    You Rock! Love the site, ideas, format & seeing your beautiful face as I look for new ways to cook something yummy up.
    Thank you.

  5. Abbie says:

    Yum! This looks so good and easy to make. Plus, love the photo of the kids 🙂

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