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Category Archives: Recipes

How to Cook Scallops

Learn how to Sear Sea Scallops like a Pro

Scallops are the prefect food for singles. They are fast and easy to cook and very healthy. But often my friends say they are intimidated by trying to cook these pearly white discs of sweet, deliciousness, often getting mixed results. The best way to cook scallops, especially if you have a busy schedule is pan-searing them over hot heat with some simple flavors. When seared correctly, scallops are creamy, sweet and carmelized on the outside.

I prefer the large scallops, which are usually available in most grocery stores. The added benefit is that these mollusks are what I like to call “power foods” because they are made up of at least 50 percent protein, low-calorie and loaded with magnesium and potassium.

Pat dry scallops, season and sear for 2 minutes per side. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Pat dry scallops, season and sear for 2 minutes per side. Photo by Christine Willmsen

You will not only impress yourself but any date or friends you are entertaining. Add the scallops to pasta, rice or sautéed vegetables.

In my next video I’ll show you a recipe and how to cook Squid Ink Pasta with Seared Scallops to truly take advantage of this healthy and easy seafood.



Corn and Salmon Salad Recipe and Grilling Tips

A winning combination of ingredients for this chopped salad is salmon, corn and cherry tomatoes. Photo by Christine Willmsen

A winning combination of ingredients for this chopped salad is salmon, corn and cherry tomatoes. Photo by Christine Willmsen


Seattle’s smoked salmon, grilled corn and fresh garden ingredients make this salad a full dinner

It’s sweet corn time. As a girl who grew up in Iowa, we always bought sweet corn from a pickup truck on the side of the road after the farmers had picked the corn that morning. So it’s only natural that I find myself buying numerous ears of corn in July and wanting to create different recipes in addition to just putting them on the grill.

I’ll never forget a surprise gift from my dad several years ago when he was visiting Seattle. When he arrived he opened an extra piece of luggage and about two dozen corn picked that day from an Iowa farm spilled out of the bag. My heart was warmed by my dad’s sincerity and we ate plump, juicy corn for days. With sweet corn being grown throughout the U.S., almost anyone can get fresh corn from their farmers market or produce store.

Quick grilling tips for corn

Pull back husks of corn and remove any hairs, then season with salt, cumin and chili powder. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Pull back husks of corn and remove any hairs, then season with salt, cumin and chili powder. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Grill corn for 8-10 minutes in the husks to keep them moist. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Grill corn for 8-10 minutes in the husks to keep them moist. Photo by Christine Willmsen

To successfully grill corn, prep and season it. That means you need to pull the husks back, remove all the silk (fine hairs) and spice it up by rubbing a mixture of salt, chili powder and cumin.

Try your own spice combination. Rewrap the husks around the corn and grill for 8-10 minutes on medium-high heat. I always poke the corn with my fingernail and if it pierces the soft kernel and the juices explode then it’s time to pull it from the grill.

While I may eat an ear or two for dinner, I’ll grill another one so that I can use it for a salad the next day. I’ve created this recipe that combines Seattle’s finest smoked or cooked salmon with garden ingredients that are ripe right now including arugula and cherry tomatoes. This is a hearty salad that’s perfect for one person for dinner. To see The Solo Cook assemble the salad, watch King 5’s New Day Northwest show. The recipe below is inspired by the restaurant Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale, Arizona, where I had a memorable salad. I know once you try my salad you will be hooked on cooking extra ears of corn for this chopped salad.

Hot in the Kitchen: Corn and Salmon Salad Recipe

Cut all your ingredients and line them up to place them in a line on your plate, then drizzle dressing on top. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Cut all your ingredients and line them up to place them on your plate, then drizzle dressing on top. Photo by Christine Willmsen


1/2 cup of corn or kernels from 1 grilled corn cob

1/2 cup chopped arugula

1/4 cup diced cherry tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped smoked salmon or cooked salmon

1/8 cup slivers asiago cheese

3 tablespoons pepitas

1/4 cup cooked pearl or Israeli couscous

Pesto Buttermilk Dressing:

Gently stir dressing in with the salad ingredients. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Gently stir pesto buttermilk dressing in with the salad ingredients. Photo by Christine Willmsen

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup pesto (store bought if easier)

Half of shallot chopped

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/3 lemon squeezed for juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine mayonnaise, pesto, shallots and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into food processor and blend thoroughly.  As food processor continues to run, add buttermilk, remaining lemon juice and salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To prepare salad for presentation: place each ingredient in a line such as 1/4 cup arugula, 1/4 cup corn, tomatoes, asiago, salmon, pepitas, couscous, 1/4 cup corn and 1/4 cup arugula. Drizzle dressing on top of the ingredients. When ready to serve, lightly fold dressing into the ingredients. Leftover dressing can be stored for several days. Use the remaining dressing as a dip for fresh cut vegetables.



Two Beet Salad Recipes that are Quick and Healthy

Try these two quick and healthy beet salads; each is a perfect serving for one

Roasted beets can taste like candy when added to salads. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Roasted beets can taste like candy when added to salads. Photo by Christine Willmsen

It’s time to go beyond the traditional roasted beets your mom boiled or cooked in the oven and think of beets as a way to beef up your salads.

Go to the store and get two or three beets and start by cleaning them and trimming the green tops off.  Leave about one inch of the stems intact to prevent the beets from bleeding. But don’t throw away those green tops; use them in my chicken soup recipe I posted last week. Beets are superfoods, stocked with high levels of folate and potassium, according to Self Nutritional Data and the USDA.

I often cook several beets on a Sunday night so that I have them ready for these salads throughout the week. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Then rub each beet with a bit of olive oil and wrap them in aluminum foil.  Place them on a cooking sheet so that their juices won’t ooze to the bottom of the oven and make a mess. Cook them for at least one hour or until a knife can easily slide through the beet. Cool them to room temperature and peel them.

Now let’s have fun with two different salads that I promise will make your beets taste like candy from the earth. The first salad combines the sweetness of beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese to make this a savory and sweet salad. The second salad is all about combining fresh, simple ingredients. Each of these recipes is a perfect serving for one person for lunch or a side dish at dinner.

Hot in the Kitchen: Beet, Cucumber and Pea Salad with Feta

The sweetness of the beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese make this a great salad. Photo by Christine Willmsen

The sweetness of the beets, the crunch of cucumbers and the salt of feta cheese make this a great salad. Photo by Christine Willmsen


1 cooked beet cut into squares

½ cucumber peeled and sliced

¼ cup peas defrosted

1/8 cup crumbled feta cheese

½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and lightly drizzle with olive oil. Salt and pepper to your taste. I used peas from my garden that I froze earlier in the year.

Hot in the Kitchen: Beet, Tomato and Avocado Salad

Beet, tomato and avocado salad only takes minutes to prepare. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Beet, tomato and avocado salad only takes minutes to prepare. Photo by Christine Willmsen


1 cooked beet, sliced

5 cherry or teardrop yellow tomatoes sliced in half

½ avocado cut into thin slices

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Gently mix ingredients together and sprinkle with sea salt.  If you are craving greens in your salad, add ½ cup torn arugula.



Easy Chicken Soup with a Leafy Twist Recipe

Try Chicken Soup with Beet Greens to Stay Warm on Frosty Days

On cold days, there’s nothing better than a large, hot bowl of chicken soup to thaw your bones and steam your face. I have a great twist on chicken soup that helps you use left over chicken and the tops of beets. Instead of cranking open a lackluster can of chicken soup or spending hours cooking a pot of soup on the stove, just follow these easy steps to make a flavorful chicken soup that will leave you satisfied.

This is a easy and fast soup to make with chicken, beet greens and garbanzo beans. Photo by Christine Willmsen

This is an easy and fast soup to make with chicken, beet greens and garbanzo beans. Photo by Christine Willmsen

As a single person I often have leftover chicken from another meal that I want to use in another dish, and this soup makes use of all those extras in the kitchen. The twist in this soup is adding beet leaves. And when I pulled some of my beets out of the garden recently, I knew I wanted to some how create a recipe that used those colorful green and red tops.

Many people buy their beets, cut off the tops, and roast the red jewels in the oven. But don’t dump the leafy tops in the compost.  They contain valuable nutrients and are perfect for this chicken soup. If you don’t have beet tops, you can use rainbow chard or spinach as a substitute. This soup will make enough for dinner and then lunch the next day. With chicken and garbanzo beans this is a protein-packed soup that’s filling despite it not having noodles or dumplings.

Hot In The Kitchen: Chicken Soup with a Leafy Twist

Don't throw away the tops of beets. I use been greens from my garden to add flavor to soups. Photo by Christine Willmsen

Don’t throw away the tops of beets. I use beet greens from my garden to add flavor to soups. Photo by Christine Willmsen


1 chicken breast cut in large chunks or ¼ of chicken that’s leftover

½ onion chopped

2 cans vegetable or chicken stock

1 tomato chopped

1 can garbanzo beans

2 cups beet greens, thickly sliced, without the thick stems

3 tablespoons of minced cilantro

1 teaspoon of both salt and pepper

Optional: slices of avocado, lime slice and hot sauce

Cook chicken and onion in saucepan with stock, salt and pepper on medium low heat until tender or falling off the bones, about 30 minutes.  Then add tomato, garbanzo beans and beet greens to soup and cook on low for another 8-10 minutes. Top the soup with cilantro, sprinkles of sea salt and slices of avocado. If available squeeze a slice of lime on top to give the soup a bright flavor. If you like a little heat, feel free to add a couple drops of hot sauce.

For other great chicken soups recipes see Foodista’s recent story.



Quick Pasta Dinner for Bachelors

Bachelors – tune into this easy and fast pasta dinner

The Solo Cook blog is for men too.  Hey, bachelors I know there are nights when cooking seems more like a chore than something to enjoy. But trust me, cooking for yourself is fun.

This blog is for anyone who wants to cook for himself or herself. You also don’t have to be “single” to try these recipes and swing by the “hot spot” restaurants that I recommend.

If you are dating someone, but have to fend for yourself because you aren’t shacking up – this is the recipe for you.

If your partner or roommate is traveling out-of-town and the kitchen seems as foreign as a faraway country – this is the recipe for you.

If you are single and want a dinner that will be ready within minutes – this is the recipe for you.

Boil, Chop and Sauté – It’s that easy

The first order of business when you get home from work is to fill a pot with water and put it on high heat so that it will boil soon. And before you take off that tie or dress, pour yourself a drink. It doesn’t take much for me to get in the mood to cook. A glass of wine and some funky music playing in the background always gets me into a food vibe. And if you are into a non-alcoholic drink – grab a sparkling water and squeeze or slice some fresh fruit into the glass.

Next chop up all your ingredients – garlic, mushrooms and zucchini. Yep, that’s the only three ingredients that you have to cut. You can use any vegetable you want, like broccoli or Swiss chard. I used the green leafy tops of beets from the garden to make this pasta dish.  And if you are like me and you crave protein – don’t be afraid to add shrimp or chicken if it’s in the refrigerator. The key to this dish is that it’s easy and fast.

Bachelor’s Pasta Dinner

1/4 bag of capellini also known as angel hair pasta – that’s about 4 ounces

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

4 garlic cloves minced (best if you have a garlic press – which is a total time saver)

2 cups sliced mushrooms (any variety)

1 cup thickly sliced zucchini

2 tablespoons white wine (if available)

½ cup shredded Parmesan

Salt and pepper

Heat oil and butter in sauté pan on medium high heat. Add garlic, mushrooms, white wine, salt and pepper, and cook for several minutes or until liquid evaporates. Put angel hair pasta in salted, boiling water for five minutes. Add zucchini or vegetable of choice, to the sauté pan and cook until zucchini starts to brown, then sprinkle Parmesan on top. Drain pasta, and drizzle with olive oil to prevent it from sticking.  Add the sautéed vegetables to a mound of pasta on your plate and enjoy.



Compound butter adds a boost of flavor

Butter it up Babe

Compound butter incorporates herbs like parsley, thyme and oregano.

Who doesn’t love butter? It’s fantastic to cook with and tastes great on just about anything.  But guess what – you can jazz it up by making compound butter. This is great for single people who don’t know what to do with the extra herbs from the store and those who want to add something quick and rich to a dish.

You only need a couple of herbs to make compound butter.

A compound butter, also known as buerre composé in French, basically incorporates herbs or other ingredients to flavor it. Compound butter saves a single person the hassle of always finding herbs to cut and add to a dish. This time-saving method allows you to have flavor-packed butter ready anytime.  I hate it when I buy expensive herbs from the store for one recipe, and then they go to waste days later because I never did anything with them. Next time you have extra parsley or any other herb, make compound butter.

Hot in the Kitchen

Finely chop two tablespoons of fresh herbs like parsley, thyme and oregano.

Making a compound butter is easy. Just let a stick of butter, 8 tablespoons, soften by taking it out of the refrigerator. In the meantime, chop two tablespoons fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, chives or oregano and any combination of them. Be creative by adding other spices and herbs to your compound butter.

Mash herbs into soften butter with a fork.

Mix or mash the herbs and butter together with a spatula or fork. Use wax paper or plastic wrap to mold the butter into a cylinder, covering the butter and twisting the ends.

Wrap butter in wax paper or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

The butter can last for months in the freezer and weeks in the refrigerator. Anytime you want to cook with it, just pull it out of the refrigerator and slice a couple pads off.

I love a dab of compound butter on my steak or mixed in with garden vegetables. The compound butter I added to my green beans made them glisten and taste rich.

The dinner below uses only one pan and is perfect for one. I sautéed green beans with garlic and topped it with compound butter. After I removed the beans from the pan, I cooked tilapia (you could use any white fish) for about three minutes until translucent.

Next week I’ll highlight a Hot Spot restaurant for singles.



Sautéed green beans with melted compound butter is a great side to white fish like tilapia.

Simple is sometimes better when it comes to food

Building a salad is about tantalizing the eyes with colors from fresh vegetables and fruits. Dinner doesn’t have to be complicated, just be creative with your ingredients.

There are times, after several long days of reporting and writing at the Seattle Times, that I just want a simple and easy dish to eat that doesn’t destroy my clean kitchen. In my younger years that meant grabbing a burger or tacos at a fast-food joint, just to kill the hunger pangs. Since then I’ve learned a few things about single cooking along the way and I hope you can take a few of my ideas into your kitchen.

There are days I’m jazzed about tackling complicated, multi-step recipes, realizing I have the time and patience. But often times we all are in a rush or getting home late from errands or a fun happy hour with friends and we still need to nibble.

If you don’t have the time to cook something elaborate, don’t worry about it. The reason some dinners and snacks are so great is because they are simple and fresh – and that typically means healthy too.

My garden produced golden sweet tomatoes and purple carrots

Visit your farmer’s market or local store and grab fruits and vegetables that are in season. Those fresh foods are the foundation of a flavorful, simple dish. So when I’m in a hurry, salads are my go-to meal. Chopping the vegetables, greens and toppings take only a couple minutes and you can create your salad.

I grabbed fresh greens, tomatoes and purple carrots from my garden. The purple carrots catch your eye with the color and surprise the palate with a spicy, sweet flavor.

Hot in the Kitchen

Mixed Green Salad with Plum Vinaigrette:


Three cups chopped or torn fresh mixed greens, including any combination of mesclun, spinach and arugula if available

Two carrots sliced into coins

Four cherry tomatoes quartered

Two tablespoons crumbled blue cheese such as Cabrales

One tablespoon fresh herbs like thyme, cilantro, oregano and parsley if available

Any other ingredients from your pantry or kitchen that inspire you

Plum Vinaigrette (Bon Appetit, August 2012)

2 black plums, pitted, chopped and halved

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Dash of salt and pepper

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Bring plums and ¾ cup water to boil in small saucepan and then simmer on medium-high heat, stirring and mashing plums for about 15 minutes until they are broken down. Pour plum mixture through fine-mesh sieve, pressing solids through to make a puree. Let cool. Then add oil, vinegar, 2 tablespoons water and salt and pepper and whisk. Add hot pepper flakes, if you like a little kick. This can be made ahead of time and will last for at least one week in frig.

Toss salad ingredients and drizzle dressing on top.

A plum vinaigrette adds a sweet tanginess to this mixed green salad with blue cheese.

Tailor a salad for your palate

Another great thing about making salads is that you literally can open up the refrigerator and use leftovers or extras from a previous dish. Maybe you grilled salmon the night before and you can add some bites to your salad. When I grill a chicken breast for dinner, I make sure I either buy an extra large one to grill so that I have chunks to add to the next day’s lunch.

Also see what mood you are in that day. Are you craving protein? Then add tofu, salmon or shrimp. If you are craving something sweet, add fruit like strawberries, nectarines or apples. Are you yearning for some salt? Add some olives, pecans, pumpkin seeds or hazelnuts. Be creative by topping your salad with something different. My favorite additions to a simple salad are any of the following: edamame, avocado, hard-boiled egg, peas and dried cranberries. You can also add caramelized onions or crispy fried shallots. If you are like me, I also love cheese as part of my salad, so I usually sprinkle feta or goat cheese on top.

What are your favorite foods to add to your salad? Let the Solo Cook know.



The Solo Cook creates the Shiso Cucumber Martini

Shiso, also known as perilla, is a great herb to use in cocktails. This martini combines shiso and cucumber.

Try shiso leaves with a cocktail, fish or salad

This bold and herbaceous cocktail I created will quench your thirst. And exactly how I concocted it is just as interesting as the history of the main ingredient – shiso. Plus, discover how one of Seattle’s famous chefs, Thierry Rautureau, uses shiso in his kitchen.

After a brief, but much-needed vacation, The Solo Cook is back, filing you in on the best recipes and hot spots to visit. Don’t think for a second that while I was taking time off I wasn’t thinking of you.  While I may have been entertaining my dad and friend Jane, I was still thinking of ideas for gardening, cooking and enjoying food for all the single people out there. If anything, my time away, stimulated even more ideas.

Shiso seeds can be bought at any nursery or garden store.

Given my need for things that involve risk, I was committed to planting something other than traditional herbs and plants in my garden this year. In mid-June I bought shiso seeds and planted them in a little container on my deck. Weeks later, to my surprise, little red and green plants sprouted and my shiso, also known as perilla, appeared. This annual flourished in the small pot, but it never emerged from the relatively dry ground near my dahlias. So I recommend you plant the seeds directly in a container in early June, and once the plant is a few inches tall, start to harvest the leaves.

If you lack a green thumb, don’t worry about growing shiso. The fresh leaves can be purchased at most Asian grocery stores.

Plant red and green shiso in June. It also can be purchased in Asian markets and grocery stores.

Shiso is a rich source of calcium and iron, and imparts subtle hints of clove, cinnamon and cumin. I decided to plant shiso, also known as Japanese basil, because I enjoy it with one of my favorite types of food – sushi. But don’t relegate this herb to just chopsticks.

For some expert advice on shiso, I turned to James Beard Award-winning chef Thierry Rautureau, who owns Rover’s and Luc restaurants in Seattle.

Rautureau, who competed on “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo TV, has been growing shiso for years, and has developed quite a liking for it.

“I love steaming my cod with a dash of olive oil, a sprinkle of sea salt and take a couple big leaves of purple shiso and wrap the fish in it,” Rautureau says. “Shiso is a great addition to a steamed dish as it releases its pungent perfume.”

For a salad, he recommends combining shiso with watermelon, feta and lemon-olive oil dressing.

In Asian folklore, shiso was a sacred herb that if disrespected or stepped on meant death, according to Botanical Interests, a seed company. Another factoid of interest is that in the U.S., shiso was a key ingredient in sarsaparilla and flavored dental products.

For this blog, I usually create a food recipe perfect for one, but I thought it would be daring to concoct a drink with something from my garden.

Be adventuresome and try this cocktail. At a minimum, I can guarantee it will be intoxicating.

Hot in the Kitchen

Shiso Cucumber Martini

Muddle shiso leaves and cucumber.


2 shots premium vodka

6 shiso leaves (two for garnish) that can be grown or purchased at Asian market

2 teaspoons simple syrup *

¼ cucumber cut into chunks (thin slice for garnish)

Tear shiso leaves apart and put in cocktail shaker or pint glass. Use the handle of wooden spoon (like mine from Ecuador) or a muddler to mash cucumber and shiso together. Add vodka and simple syrup and continue to muddle. Add ice to glass until half full, and shake or stir.

Garnish martini with cucumber slice and two shiso leaves.

Strain ingredients into a martini glass and garnish with a red and green shiso leaf and a thin cucumber slice.

* Simple syrup is a must-have when making cocktails and other drinks. Just bring to boil equal parts sugar and water together until dissolved. After cooling, syrup can be stored in refrigerator for several months. I usually make one cup.



Best breakfast sandwich combines basil, avocado and egg

Basil Avocado Breakfast Sandwich

Basil and avocado add a twist to an egg breakfast sandwich. This is an easy recipe, perfect for one person.

Wondering what to do with that fresh basil from the garden or the bunch you picked up from the farmer’s market? Some think of using basil for Italian dishes like pesto and caprese, which is great, but there are so many other ways to use basil. When I think of basil, I think of breakfast. I created this breakfast sandwich because it’s easy to make and perfect for one person. And if you have a morning visitor, it’s just as simple to make two of them.

I combined basil from my garden with one of my favorite foods – avocado. As a single gal, I usually have two avocados on hand. I recommend you buy one that’s soft and ripe and another that’s very firm. That way, every couple of days you’ll have an avocado to play with in the kitchen. I justify my love of the avocado with the fact that it is a heart-healthy food with monounsaturated fat and potassium. Now if only we could grow avocados in the Pacific Northwest.

I know you’ll find this breakfast sandwich rich and satisfying. For me, it was the perfect weekend breakfast on my warm, sunny porch.

Hot in the Kitchen

Basil Avocado Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Add basil to egg as it is frying in the pan.

1 tablespoon chopped basil

Half of ripe avocado mashed

1 English muffin (two slices)

1 egg

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

Salt and pepper to taste

As you fry an egg in coconut oil, sprinkle chopped basil on top. Add salt and pepper. As egg is cooking ‘sunny side up,’ toast muffin slices. Spread mayonnaise on one slice of toasted muffin. Mash slices of avocado on the other slice of muffin. Place medium cooked egg in between slices.



Bold nutty flavor of arugula makes a great healthy salad

Arugula is a fantastic, spicy green to grow in the garden. Arugula has a unique nutty, white pepper flavor that packs a punch.

Arugula fresh from my garden is ready for sandwiches, pasta and my new salad recipe. Grow it or pick it up at a farmer’s market.

In fact, I’ve tossed seeds in the garden and been surprised to see it growing like a weed and then turn into a bush. Just be sure to snip off the buds to prevent bolting, but if it flowers don’t be afraid to eat them too. This healthy green-leafed plant from the Mediterranean is part of the Brassicaceae family and is loaded with tons of vitamins. It’s a cool season crop, also known as rocket, that can grow for months in the Pacific Northwest.

I like arugula in sandwiches, wraps, mixed in with other greens to add zip or thrown in pasta. If you aren’t growing it in your garden, pick up a bunch from the farmer’s market or your local grocery store to make this fast, easy recipe that’s perfect for lunch or dinner. This recipe I created is an explosion of flavors in each bite with the spicy arugula, creamy avocado and crunchy cucumber.

Hot in the Kitchen

Arugula Avocado Salad 

2 packed cups of arugula

Arugula with simple ingredients makes a great spicy salad with a tangy dressing.

½ avocado diced

1/2 of tomato diced

¼ of cucumber diced

wedge of lemon

Dressing: combine the following ingredients thoroughly

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons honey

Dash of salt and pepper

Lightly toss arugula, avocado, tomato and cucumber with dressing and squeeze a wedge of lemon juice on top. To add protein to the salad just add diced firm tofu.

Arugula Avocado Salad is a great lunch or dinner for one person.