In this last month my life has totally changed. My girls are both away for most of the week in the army, and as of last week my beloved dog of 15 years is no longer. There are still two cats to feed, and three aquariums to take care of, but there is really no one to shop or cook for most of the week except myself.
For the first week, I still had leftovers from my last shopping expedition. But then late one night, when I felt like noshing, I suddenly realized that there was nothing in the house I wanted to eat. Horrors! I had actually forgotten to shop for myself, and when I do, I asked myself, what do I want to buy for just me?
And then, on the following day, I visited a dear friend who lives alone and watched her put together a delicious chicken sandwich on whole-wheat poppy and sunflower-seed bread, with Dijon mustard, sliced tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, arugula and carrot sticks on the side, and sit down to a table set with a place mat and a glass of Pellegrino. How different that was to my spending most of the day in front of the computer, stopping only to grab something (healthy) to eat while I'm working. And then I got it; It's more than a meal - It's a matter of self-respect.
So I did it: I went home and made myself a super salad of organic lettuce, a few tablespoons of leftover bulgur that I had in the fridge, thinly sliced organic tomatoes and cucumbers, homemade lentil and mung bean sprouts, anchovies, extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon and a little freshly grated real Parmesan cheese on top. I sat at my kitchen counter, at my place setting, and ate like a mensch, and enjoyed every bite.
People who live alone often neglect themselves when it comes to food, like a neighbor of mine who was widowed after 45 years of marriage. When her husband was alive, they ate full breakfasts and dinners, including chicken, fish or meat and fresh vegetables, but now she eats prepared soups, salty crackers, canned vegetables, pasta with bottled sauce, frozen prepared foods, and coffee and a cookie three times a day. Although she has lost weight (which makes her happy) she's also lost her vitality, and tests have shown that she suffers from anemia and vitamin deficiencies.
How do you eat well when you live alone? First of all, get to know yourself anew. Analyze your health situation and consult with a nutritionist - or read up on dietary suggestions for your personal situation.
Then begin writing down everything you eat and drink, just for a week or two. Are you eating a variety of foods or the same foods every day? Do you use different colored fresh or frozen (not canned) vegetables? Try to include at least one in every meal. The pigments in different colored vegetables and fruits contain powerful antioxidants that help prevent cancer and other diseases.
For protein, pounded chicken breasts can be quickly prepared by just seasoning and throwing them on the grill. Canned tuna and sardines are also a good choice, and a fresh salmon steak makes a real treat. For complete vegetarian protein, mix whole grains like wheat couscous, bulgur, basmati rice, quinoa or barley, with any kind of beans or bean sprouts and freeze it in small portions to use as a side dish, a salad, or an addition to soup. Buy and use fresh herbs, then grind leftovers in a food processor with olive oil, a clove of garlic and salt and pepper, cover with oil and store in the refrigerator. They turn a simple soup, sandwich or salad dressing to something sublime.
And lastly, don't forget your friends, especially those in the same situation. If you don't feel like cooking for a crowd, have a Shabbat or holiday pot luck dinner, where everyone contributes something. It's not only fun, it's good for the stomach, the heart and the soul.
WINTER QUINOA SALAD WITH PERSIMMON, GREEN ONIONS AND POPPY SEED VINAIGRETTE
You can prepare the quinoa in advance and freeze, then defrost and add the other ingredients before serving.
Makes 3 servings
4 1â„2 cup quinoa (regular or tri-color)
4 3â„4 cup water
4 Pinch salt
4 1 persimmon, cut into small cubes
4 2 young tender green onions (scallions),
cut into 2.5 cm. pieces
4 2 Tbsp. honey
4 2 Tbsp. canola or extra virgin olive oil
4 11â„4 Tbsp. white wine vinegar or rice
4 1â„4 tsp. Dijon mustard
4 Pinch of fresh or dried tarragon
4 Salt to taste
4 1â„2 tsp. poppy seeds, or more to taste
4 Fresh mint leaves to garnish (optional)
Put the quinoa in a strainer and rinse under running water. Drain and place in a pot with the water and salt, bring to a boil, cover and cook over low heat 10 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes and fluff with a fork. Cool. Add persimmon and green onions.
For the dressing, put all the ingredients except the poppy seeds in a blender and process till smooth. Stir in the poppy seeds and pour over the quinoa mixture. If not serving immediately, save some dressing to refresh the salad before serving. n