The Unknown


Some of you have very sweetly written me to ask how I’m doing after this post. Truthfully, it’s day by day. This Thursday is the first day that I’ll be living alone…for the first time in my entire life (with the exception of a very brief period in Boston that didn’t work out all that famously). Yep, and I’m 31. When you’ve been with someone as long as we have been together, it’s just the way it’s always been. So I have days where I’m excited to rearrange the furniture, and I have a lot of days where I’m really anxious and worried. I bite my nails, watch bad late night  TV, and eat strawberry jam out of the jar. Today’s  been one of those days. I’ve discovered days off from work aren’t necessarily great for me–there’s a little too much time to think and be in my own head. It’s important to stay busy. But the more I try and figure out what it is I’m so worried about, the more I realize it’s really just the unknown. It’s not knowing how I’ll feel next week or this summer or who I’ll go to first with exciting news or wake up in the middle of the night with a terrifying dream. So I’m trying really hard to just sit with that. Sit with the unknown and try and not figure it all out this second. Because I can’t. And I’m guessing it’s not ready to be all figured out.

Also, eating alone isn’t my favorite thing in the whole world. I rarely cook big, elaborate meals in the first place but now–and lately, my meals are getting simpler and simpler. And so today, I bring you one of my favorite substantial salads. I usually make this in the summer when the weather gets so hot that you can’t be bothered stepping into the kitchen. It’s great because it’s easy and filling and doesn’t take a whole lot of mental energy–nice for those days when you’re feeling a little strapped in that department.

Today I also leave you with a question and a favor: tell me, what do you like cooking when you’re home alone? Or even better, maybe you live alone: what are your favorite dinners to prepare? Love to hear any suggestions! Because as good as this salad is, it’ll need a little company at some point.

Asian Cabbage and Tofu Salad with Peanut Dressing

Asian Cabbage and Tofu Salad with Peanut Dressing

  • Yield: 4
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 5 mins
  • Inactive time: 30 mins
  • Total time: 50 mins

I use tofu in this salad and lightly pan fry it in grapeseed oil. I love the oil because it has a very mild flavor and a high smoke point (unlike olive oil) so it’s perfect to lightly and quickly pan fry something like tofu. If you’d rather bake the tofu or buy it pre-cooked, that’s fine too! While this salad is best eaten right away, I have had it for leftovers the next day and it’s held up just fine. The peanut dressing is dangerous stuff: it’s nice to make a little extra to have laying around to dip veggies or pita in for a late-night snack.

Ingredients

For the Salad:

4 cups napa cabbage, shredded
1o oz. package extra firm tofu
1 medium red bell pepper, sliced (1/2 cup)
1 large carrot, grated
4 green onions, sliced (1/4 cup)
1 tsp. grape seed oil (to lightly pan fry tofu)
2 Tbsp. soy sauce, to marinate tofu (use gluten-free brand if this is a concern)

For Dressing:

3 Tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1 Tbsp. agave
3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce (use gluten-free brand if this is a concern)
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. fresh ginger
t tsp. sesame seeds

Instructions

Make the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well combined.

Make the Salad: Slice tofu into long slices and lay flat in a bowl or shallow dish. Cover with simple marinade of soy sauce and let sit for at least 30 minutes.  In a small sauce pan, heat grape seed oil and lightly pan fry tofu for about two minutes on each side. Place on paper towel to cool.

Once cool enough to handle, slice into thin strips. Next, toss the cabbage, bell pepper, carrots, sliced tofu, and green onions into a serving bowl and dress.

Comments

  1. Rachael

    You'll call US when you wake up with a bad dream, or need to share the most menial of exciting news. WE are the ones with our ringers turned up to high just waiting for your calls. As for someone that has spent much time wanting to cook elaborate meals, but only cooking for herself- I say cook your heart out and learn to love leftovers! I love a good pork tenderloin crusted in parmesan or wrapped in pancetta. Any grain and veggie goes good with it! And then you can have pork tenderloin hoagies for lunch the next day. Or I play around with casseroles of all sort (and I'm not talkin cream of mushroom soup here people) and eat em for a few days after. Simplicity, and heart. Just go with that- and somehow you'll never feel as if you're at a table for one.

  2. Rachael

    I suppose I should have said *wrapped in proccuito.

  3. Kasey

    Oh wow, Megan. Change is definitely hard and loneliness can be horribly isolating. But, it sounds like you have a strong support system--both in real life and through this blog. I know it can be drag to cook when you're alone, but living alone also gives you a great excuse to have friends over for dinner...anytime you'd like :) I love making big, hearty veggie bowls with poached eggs, and noodles with lots of cheese. And chocolate lava cakes...lots of chocolate :)

  4. allison lemons

    Oh Megan! I have so much I want tell you right now (after I give you a big hug). The first time I lived alone I was 26, and it was following a disaster of a divorce with someone I was with for 10 years.

    Cook whatever YOU want. Anything at all. And try your best to enjoy it, knowing that in the coming months you will get to know yourself better than ever before.

    And let's hang out! I'm right over the bridge! I would LOVE to eat your cooking (hey, we're having a friend over tonight for brick chicken and chickpea soup, you should come over!!)
    ok, I can't believe I'm leaving all this as a comment. Ha!

  5. Stephanie

    Hi Megan: I hadn't read the past post, but now I have, both are lovely. I'm sorry that you've been going through something so tough, but you have written about it beautifully and I love the idea of caring for yourself by cooking yourself healthy, comforting food and spending more time with great friends. It's going to be a good spring/summer, everything is new. Take care, Stephanie

  6. El

    I lived alone for years before I got married so I understand what it's like. My take is different because I think living alone is healthy and important. Most people spend their lives jumping from one situation or relationship to the next without figuring out who they are or how they want to live---without interference from others. Living alone can give you that opportunity - an opportunity most people never have.

    One thing I did, that may or may not be helpful, was keep sort of self-development book. I literally wrote down everything I wanted to do and learn and checked them off as I went along. Whether it was seeing a show, learning to play tennis, visiting Europe or going back for another degree...I had my list and I completed the activities regardless of whether others wanted to participate...and regardless of what others thought. Pretty soon some serious self-confidence developed.

    There will be an adjustment phase but creating structure for yourself may help. I hope this experience ends up being positive for you too.

    Remember, you're not the same person you were in Boston. This is an opportunity to reinvent yourself on your terms.

    Give yourself a permission to freak out for a while and then host a nice dinner party for a few new friends. Who knows, at some point you may even come to love the fact that you can shut the door at the end of the night, turn on bad tv and eat strawberry jam out a jar!

    Peace, El

  7. Chez Us

    Oh Megan, I am really sorry to hear you are having a hard time. I am definitely older (43) and have felt the heartache a couple times in my life. The one thing I tell myself every time I have a new lesson to learn in life is that I will be a stronger and better person for the decisions I have made. You want someone to share good news with - call! Really, just call. You want someone to cook for - we love to eat! Again, call!

    What to eat being single - everything. You have no shame. You have no one to tell you no. A pint of ice cream .... go for it! A brick of cheese .... go for it. Jam out of the jar ..... go for it. A bottle of wine (or a stiff cocktail) .... go for it. One (okay two) of my favorite things to do when I am home alone, eat peanut butter out of the jar and make goat cheese sandwiches on a baguette with tomatoes!

    Let's get together again soon ....

    D.

  8. Chez Us

    ps..... i don't even like tofu but this salad sounds and looks amazing! Great job on capturing the photos!

  9. Janet

    I hear you. Change is so hard - I really struggle with it. It's not at all the same thing, but in the last 7 months, I was laid off, got a new and totally different job, and got my own place for the first time after my roommate got married. Oh, and gained 10 pounds. ;) It's a LOT to take all at once.

    I actually recently realized I eat the majority of my meals alone, usually reading blogs or in front of the TV, though I'm trying to break that habit! I end up just throwing thing together - baked tofu and sweet potato, roasted veggies and chicken, oat bran topped with a poached egg and butter, stir-fry - but I'm trying to change that, too. I've got a cookbook my Dad gave me years ago called Solo Suppers (a sort of unfortunate title) that has some nice recipes. I'm going to try to break it more often.

    Have you read "What We Eat When We Eat Alone" by Deborah Madison? I actually just picked it up from the library and it's really interesting!

    And hey, anytime you want to share a meal, let me know!

    (This look delicious by the way!)

  10. El

    How could I forget? The salad is beautiful too!!!

  11. Pop Gordon

    Yes Guiness, "...sit with the unknown". And, by the way, I think you're going to eventually love being by yourself for a bit, doing mostly what you want when you want to. Being good to self does rule. A great little and quick one-person meal? Cook 1 large serving spaghetti or linguine and toss with a little olive oil, set aside. Saute 4 pieces of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces. Cook until brown, add 4 cloves of garlic finely chopped and continue cooking until almost browned. Turn off heat, stir in 3 handfuls baby spinach and toss in the pan until softened but still somewhat firm. Remove spinach from pan onto plate. Add pasta to pan, turn up heat, stir while heating, and then stir in spinach & bacon to mix all. Serve with finely grated parmesan. Yum. Love, Pop

  12. MomGordon

    Your sister, Rachael is right. You call US! Option #2 when you are tired of cooking for one... come on over for dinner! I'm probably tired of cooking for one too!

  13. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best

    Megan, I agree completely with El, I have faith that one day you will wake up and know that you are a stronger and better version of yourself because you've had time to grow comfortable in your skin without the interference of others. This is never an easy process, and I recognize that it is particularly difficult given the length of your relationship, but each day gets easier.
    Take care, Christine

  14. Dana

    Megan, there is so much to say that is so difficult. I'm sorry you're going through this. It's hard, really hard, but you manage to muddle through. I've definitely had terrible days and come home to an empty house that felt really lonely. On days like that, I bake. Generally muffins.

    (HUG)

  15. Danielle

    Gosh, sorry to read about what happened. I've been through similar and know exactly what you mean about being ok one moment and panicky the next. You're doing great taking it one day at a time, because that's what life is all about - the moment! I will definitely call you next time I'm up north, but don't hesitate to shout-out too if you're headed my way on your day off :)

    My all-time favorite 'Dinner for one' repertoire is pasta: throw in a poached egg, some parsley and parmesan and loads of garlic for a lip-smacking meal. And because I'm alone, I can add all the garlic I want! :)

    Take care and see you soon!

  16. Jessica

    Blech. That's how I feel about change. Kicking and screaming I go down the road of change, but always, always I end up somewhere better for it.

    Your photography is beautiful and that salad looks delicious.

  17. RM

    Once again, I'll lower this blog's standards and offer my favorite home alone dish: grilled cheese. With ketchup (that just cost you some readers). We'd love to have you over soon even if you don't bring leftovers.

    hang in there and let's talk.

  18. Sharon

    I very much enjoy your blog! Your photos are what really draw me in...you obviously take a lot of precious time in designing the scene, which always turns out so lovely. Thank you for bringing joy and comfort through your wonderful recipes, writings, and photos! I hope you're doing well following the recent changes in your life! As someone who also mostly lives alone near your former Boston locale (with my 19-year-old feline child)--I often eat breakfast at night, which I love. Scrambled eggs and grits with cheddar cheese stirred into them. (I grew up in the South.) Not exactly the healthiest meal, but "comfort food" to me, for sure!

  19. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite

    Megan, look at all this wonderful outpouring of love for you! We ALL love you (and some of us have not even met you!!!) and I think even if we can't chat in person, you can write posts and that might help...

    I lived on my own in Paris for nearly 6 years alone and to be honest, I loved every minute of it. The luxury of eating what I wanted when I wanted. Buying a macaron (or 6) for dessert just because. Sometimes just eating cereal for dinner in front of trashy tv. But then again, I moved to Paris to escape a bad breakup. Being along was hard but it did help in the long run. I found myself.

    {{{{hugs}}}}}}

  20. megang

    Wow, it sounds like I need to invite myself over for some pork chops, lava cakes, bacon/garlic pasta, roasted veggies and chicken, and grilled cheese!

    A heartfelt thank you to my amazing friends, family and readers. You guys make showing up here and throwing a salad together an absolute joy. Thank you.

  21. Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef

    Sorry to hear this news, but it will work out for the best and you'll end up incredibly happy with your decision - I promise! As for cooking alone, I lived alone in NYC for 6 years and it was one of the best times of my life. Have chocolate chip cookies for dinner! Salad! Soup! Breakfast! Whatever the eff you want! That's the beauty of living alone. I used to make lasagna for one - boil a single long lasagna noodle, cut it into three equal squarish six pieces. Layer fresh ricotta and anything else you want in between. Then cover with tomato sauce (or any other sauce) and bake. so yum.

  22. marla {family fresh cooking}

    I love that you can share your emotions with us. It is a special bond we all share as online friends. Even though I am married with two small children I often eat alone......I love the peace.
    I keep loads of prepped veggies, lean protein & healthy carbs at the ready. I throw meals together on the fly.
    Try to enjoy each bite.....focus on your meal. Other distractions can come later. Enjoy yourself....you are so worth it!

  23. Manggy

    I suppose I lived alone when I was in med school, but I always saw my family at least once a week so it was a pretty sweet existence. I hope this time gives you sufficient strength to see this period through. Anyway, a meal like this is a great way to go eh? I think I have a soft spot for noodles - ramen, pasta (aglio olio or marinara, whatever's in the cupboard).

  24. Denise | Chez Danisse

    Not sure if I've mentioned this to you before, but have you read Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant? You might find it entertaining.

    I often make dinner for two, even when Chris isn't around, and then just eat the second portion later...not terribly exciting, but it works.

  25. Shannalee

    I am just catching wind of things now (because for some reason, my Reader wasn't picking up your most recent posts until I unsubscribed and resubscribed this weekend! weird!) but I wanted to say two things:

    1) Now is the time when blogging becomes really valuable, when you're feeling alone. I didn't realize it when I started mine, but that little piece of the Internet became a place where I could share things and be open and know that someone(s) wanted to know about it. Embrace that. We are listening!

    2) As for eating alone - oh, I so know. I love egg scramblers: chop up whatever veggies you have on hand, cook up with a couple eggs and some milk and cheese, and voila! always good.

    oh and also grilled cheese. which... I will be posting about soon. :)

    Sending you a big hug!

  26. A Canadian Foodie

    My daughter is almost 30 and has always lived alone since she left home several years ago... and has always been lonely. She is a vibrant, wonderful, busy, ultra capable young woman... who would definitely be a comfort to you if you knew her.
    Simple is always best. Simple is when life is best, too. Slowing down, taking time, and honouring who you are, who you will be, and taking the time to breath, to feel the breeze, to see the sun, and to move on - one step at a time...

  27. maryann

    Hi-
    Just found your blog- really lovely. Have you looked at Judith Jones' cookbook The Pleasures of Cooking for One, yet? I'd recommend it. Its a good read regardless of the recipes. But the recipes are pretty great too. She made me want to cook for one- but I have other family members who like to eat as well. Luckily her recipes were really easy to scale up. And great ideas for leftovers! I'll stop gushing now.
    Cheers!

    1. megang

      So funny! Just picked it up at the bookstore...love it. It's such a departure from other 'woe is me' eating-for-one cookbooks. Thanks for the recommendation and for stopping by!

  28. Kristen

    When living alone, I love making individual apple pies - Williams Sonoma make a apple pie cut out in the shape of an apple. That way i can give the extras to friends or bring to work. I get my own pie and others get to enjoy it too - win win scenario!

  29. Adrianna from A Cozy Kitchen

    Aww...shucks. I just went through a terrible breakup myself and the adjustment of living solo has been so incredibly difficult for me. Eating dinner used to consist of thought, a menu, and grocery buying. Now I mostly eat a bowl of cereal. But one meal I have embraced that's perfect for a one person meal is this pasta, risotto style. You cook it like risotto in chicken or vegetable stock and you can make a perfect one person portion!

    http://www.acozykitchen.com/spring-lemon-pasta-risotto-style/

  30. adeline

    Very interesting recipe! Thanks for sharing. I like the beautiful pictures very much too.

  31. Jennie

    I have a great cookbook called "Healthy Cooking for Two (or just you)." Even if you make the portion for two and have leftovers, great, but it's nice to have recipes actually written out for just one. They aren't boring recipes either. :)

    1. megang

      Awesome! Thanks for the suggestion, Jennie! Always looking for new cookbooks, especially ones tailored for us single eaters :)

Join the Discussion

Winter Comfort Food

Winter Morning Porridge

Winter Morning Porridge

I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead. 

Read More
Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine).  Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).

Read More
Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard

Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard

If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype. 

Read More
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup

Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup

People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.

Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.

Read More
Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche Tart with a Cornmeal Millet Crust

It's been a uniformly gray and rainy week in Seattle, and I'd planned on making a big pot of salmon chowder to have for the weekend, but then the new issue of Bon Appetit landed on my doorstep with that inviting "Pies for Dinner" cover, and I started to think about how long it's been since I made my very favorite recipe from my cookbook, Whole Grain Mornings. I'm often asked at book events which recipe I love most, and it's a tough one to answer because I have favorites for different moods or occasions, but I'd say that this savory tart is right up there. The cornmeal millet crust is one of my party tricks; when we need a quick brunch recipe, this is what I pull out of my back pocket because it's so simple and delicious. This is a no-roll, no fuss crust with a slightly sandy, crumbly texture thanks to the cornmeal, and a delightful crunch from the millet. In the past, I've used the crust and custard recipe as the base for any number of fillings: on The Kitchn last year, I did a version with greens and gruyere, and I teach cooking classes that often include a version heavy on local mushrooms and shallot. So if you are not keen on salmon or have some vegetables you're looking to use up this week, feel free to fold in whatever is inspiring you right now. Sometimes at this point in winter that can be hard, so hopefully this recipe may help a little. 

Read More