Before I get into my usual rambles, I thought I’d introduce this recipe. Ever since I posted my vegan popcorn chicken, I’ve had people asking me to make a baked version instead of a fried one because the idea of frying can be terrifying to people. If I hadn’t worked at McDonald’s for 3 years during my teenage years, I’d probably be afraid of frying things too. Now since these are baked and not fried, they lose moisture in the heat, so it’s important to keep a fair amount of the broth inside of the soy chunks otherwise you’ll have sad, dry soy bites instead of tender, juicy nuggets of flavour that you can dip in avocado cream.
Feel free to experiment with spices, but I was really feeling the Mexican spices and flavours this time around. I’ve loved lemon pepper in the past, and curried flavours would be delicious with a tahini yogurt dip as well. I hope you let me know what you try. I’m always inspired by what people make and share with me on Instagram.
In other news, I’ve unpacked my last box. Not all of my things have the right homes yet—my closet/clothing situation needs work, and my original plan for my office turned out to have changed because I decided that basically working in my kitchen and basking in the daylight is essential for my day-to-day happiness.
Look at me, learning about things that make me happy.
I’m reclaiming all the things in my life that I kind of put on the back burner because I always had other things to do, other things to worry about. I finally finished Bossypants and I plucked the fifth Song of Ice and Fire book out of my mountain of books that I have yet to read and am determined to finish it before the end of the month. That leaves me 4 days. I’ve got about 300 pages left, which might be daunting, but I’ve also got at least 3 hours of transit time this week I can dedicate to chip away at the pages.
One of my best friends voiced to me that she was afraid of entering a relationship because she had so much fun hanging out by herself already. After a long conversation of me convincing her of all the benefits of a relationship (hey now, get your mind out of the gutter. Keep it PG-13 people), I hung up the phone thinking about how long it had been since I just hung out purposely by myself. The past few years of being alone because Chris was in Ottawa while I was in Toronto seemed to mainly compose of me filling my time with activities to pass the time before the next time I saw him, my friends, or my family.
I didn’t really think about just hanging out with myself.
Now living on my own, I’m starting to shed the old habits that I had grown so accustomed to. Putting off dishes. Letting my garbage can get a little too full before taking it out. Ignoring the dust on the floor that would just take a quick sweep. Wasting food by forgetting about the cucumber I bought last week. The times I spent calling people were to make plans and figure out where the other person was. Sometimes I would just call because I was driving and I needed someone in my ear to keep me awake.
Obviously sometimes, those calls are still made, but I find myself calling my friends just to talk, for the sake of hearing their voices and keeping in touch with people I love. The calls seem a lot more rewarding—I’m listening more, hearing from people more, voicing about the happenstances in my life and processing them more rationally, rather than running through various worst-case scenarios over and over in my head.
Now I wake up, shower, get dressed, drink a glass of water while I brew some tea, put away dishes, and admire my clean counters and beautiful kitchen before I start the day. The daily ritual of pulling back my blinds and basking in the light of my east-facing windows is something I look forward to each day. Opening the door to my balcony for a whiff of fresh air and to feel what the weather is like, instead of trying to discern it through the glass of my filthy windows of my old apartment.
I eat until my fridge is barren before I restock it with things I’d rather eat than the barely wilting veggies I bought just a few days ago. I use those last sprigs of droopy cilantro before they go to waste, hoping to revive them in some cold water before I chop them up to throw on some baked soy bites. I clear out leftovers before they turn into unspeakable cultures in my nice glass containers that I actually have to open and clean and not just throw out in disgust.
I’m learning that clean homes, mindful food consumption, and healthy living is the result of day-to-day habits. Small changes like a standing desk instead of sitting all day, only having water in the house instead of juice and pop, and taking out the trash before it gets too crazy.
I say goodbye to my old, neglectful me and welcome this surprisingly adult and responsible version of myself. I even put money in my savings account that I won’t just spend on a shiny new lens as soon as I’ve saved up enough. I assessed my recent large car servicing and my daunting credit card bill and decided to make more of an effort to eat dinner and make coffee at home because it’s more frugal and frankly a lot faster than ordering take-out.
But I mean, who’s to say I can’t order pizza every once and a while? Now that I live in Mississauga, how can I ignore the cornucopia of delicious vegan-friendly Indian take-out places? All the more inspiration for making my own Indian dishes…right?
It’s all about the steps in the right direction. And while I’m pretty sure I’m still walking at a leisurely pace, it’s better than me being paralyzed at where I was before and not doing anything that was helping myself.
To rehydrate the soy chunks:
- 1 1/2 cups dried soy chunks (tvp chunks)
- 4 cups water
- 2 tbsp mushroom broth granules (or simply 4 cups of vegetable broth)
To bread the soy bites
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3/4 cup of the above-made mushroom broth
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp salt
For the avocado cream
- 1 medium avocado
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 4-6 sprigs cilantro, chopped with stems removed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Rehydrate soy chunks in vegetable broth (or water + mushroom broth granules) for at least an hour or two. Once all chunks have softened well and expanded, drain the vegetable broth but reserve 3/4 cup.
- Gently squeeze the soy chunks to remove over-excess of water, but don't squeeze them dry. You need the extra moisture while it's baking.
- Preheat oven to 425ÂºF.
- To prepare the breading, combine vegetable broth, flour and olive oil in a bowl and whisk until no lumps remain.
- In two large zipper bags, put cornstarch in one, and combine breadcrumbs, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt in the other.
- Put the soy chunks in the cornstarch bag and shake to coat completely.
- Dredge chunks into flour broth mixture and use a slotted spoon to remove from the bowl and remove excess. In small batches, transfer to the breadcrumb bag and shake to coat.
- Transfer to a large, lined baking sheet and continue the breading process until all chunks are coated.
- Bake at 425ÂºF for 25-30 minutes, giving the pan a shake midway through to turn the chunks (if yours are more flat, it's best to take a spatula to flip them over for even baking).
- While soy bites are baking, in a blender or food processor, combine avocado, lemon juice, olive oil, water, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, and salt and blend until smooth. If you want it thinner, feel free to add a bit more water.
- Once chunks are golden brown, remove from over and serve with avocado cream.