Altering $vars['body'] before it is passed to pageshell

Greetings, please point me to the right place if this is not where this topic should be discussed. I searched for "altering $vars['body']". Maybe I don't know the proper Elgg vernacular to find the answer I am looking for.

I am new to Elgg and I am trying to create a plug-in that has a different layout than the standard layout. I have read about the extend_view but really what I want to do is have access to the contents that are put into the $vars['body'] variable so that I can remove and rearrange the content. I also want to overwrite (remove) rather than extend some menu items.

Is there an easy way to manually grab each piece of content/widgets/views that is assigned to the $vars['body'] variable? Or can I change the values assigned to $vars['body']?

Pointing me in the right direction would be awesome!, if this has already been discussed somewhere, a link to it would be great!

Many thanks for supporting the Elgg community :)