Author: Tehrene Firman

I'm Tehrene—a lil' green being who's striving every day to become a healthier, happier, + more confident version of myself.

Fluffy Vegan Matcha Pancakes

My dad has always made the best big and fluffy pancakes, but one thing’s for sure: He probably wouldn’t be down with this healthy green-colored vegan and gluten-free version, even though they taste just as good. (Look away, pops—it’ll be ok!) As a lover of the breakfast staple and matcha, I couldn’t resist combining the two into a mouth-watering treat that also just so happens to be full of benefits.

While regular pancakes don’t exactly do much for your body—they primarily consist of white flour, eggs, butter, and oil, after all—these babies are jam-packed with body-boosting ingredients. In fact, they’re so healthy you can make them any day of the week. The batter is essentially oats, spinach, banana, and soy milk—so like oatmeal, except in a much-tastier form!—which contains a solid amount of iron, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber. As for the matcha, get ready: Full of antioxidants, the powdered green tea has been shown to protect against cancer and heart disease, and it energizes without the crash that comes with coffee. And another bonus I’m particularly fond of? It can also help calm anxiety thanks to L-theanine, the amino acid it contains.

How to get a quality matcha: I made the mistake of buying matcha from my grocery store, and it ended up being about 80% brown rice filler… aka a total health fail. Since labels can be deceiving and sometimes companies try to fool you into thinking you’re getting something pure when you’re not, make sure you’re buying from reputable retailers. I’m a fan of Mizuba Tea Co. and Encha, and even Trader Joe’s has a quality option available.

What to pair your pancakes with: Make yourself a batch of matcha pancakes topped with a dab of Earth Balance butter and maple syrup. Just make sure your syrup is vegan: I recently wrote about the topic on Well+Good, and surprisingly, not all varieties are animal-byproduct-free.

Print Recipe
Fluffy Vegan Matcha Pancakes
These vegan matcha pancakes are so healthy you can eat them every day.
  1. Combine the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and spray with olive oil.
  3. Pour batter into your desired pancake size. After a couple minutes, carefully check to see if the bottom is firm with your spatula. If it is, flip and cook on the other side.
  4. Serve with Earth Balance butter and pure vegan maple syrup.

5 Medicinal Mushrooms You Should Know About

I’m a huge fan of mushrooms. Whether it’s plain old white button mushrooms or portobellos, I love adding them into stir-fries, sautéing them, or throwing them on the grill. The everyday grocery store finds are already full of body-benefiting vitamins and immune system-boosting antioxidants, but when you take a step further into the world of fungi, you’ll realize there’s even more magic at your fingertips.

Even though medicinal mushrooms have been used to treat ailments of all kinds for thousands of years, they’re just now starting to go mainstream for their long lists of science-backed health benefits. And it’s getting easier to get them, too: You don’t need to go foraging in the forest to get your fix. Most even come in powder-form for easy access and can be at your doorstep in just a couple days (thanks, Amazon!). If you’re looking for a way to better your well-being, here are some of the top types to look out for.

1. Maitake

Maitake—also known as “Hen of the Woods”—might have a funny name, but the ‘shrooms are no joke when it comes to their health benefits. They’re been shown to help fight off cancer, amp up the immune system and kick viruses to the curb, and even lower cholesterol.

How to Try It: The New New Age Lion Powder Potion

2. Reishi

Reishi is popping up in coffees, protein drinks—you name it. And, there’s a good reason for that: The red kidney-shaped mushroom has been used since ancient times and has been shown to help with sleep, boost the immune system, potentially battle different types of cancers, and—one of the reasons everyone’s talking about it—could help decrease fatigue and depression.

How to Try It: Moon Juice Vanilla Mushroom Adaptogenic Protein

3. Turkey Tail

Another mushroom named after an animal (you’ll notice it’s a theme…), Turkey Tail has proven to be effective at boosting the immune system, helping fight off infections like the cold and flu. On top of that, due to its compound polysaccharide-K (PSK), it’s also been especially impressive in helping those with cancer—so much so that after years of research, the extract is available in Japan as an alternative cancer therapy. (In fact, it’s their best-selling cancer medication.)

How to Try It: Wild Foods Co Turkey Tail Mushroom Powder Extract

4. Cordyceps

If you came across Cordyceps, there’s no way you’d eat them. It’s what’s on the inside that counts for these mushrooms, though. Literally. In the wild, Cordyceps is a parasitic fungi that actually grows in (and eventually kills) insects—primarily caterpillars. But don’t worry: the options you’ll find are synthetically grown, making them completely vegan…and caterpillar-free. And that’s a good thing for your health: they could help boost your athletic performance, are thought to improve memory and sexual function, might up your energy levels, and can potentially help fight off different types of cancer.

How to Try It: Four Sigmatic Mushroom Coffee with Cordyceps

5. Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane might be one of the strangest-looking mushrooms around with its white pom-pom-like appearance. And it works out because it’s basically your mind’s #1 cheerleader: It could improve brain function, boost your memory, help you concentrate better, and rid you of brain fog. In addition to brain health, it’s also been shown to aid in digestion.

How to Try It: Sun Potion Lion’s Mane Mushroom Powder

As with any adaptogen or supplement, before trying any of these mushrooms for yourself, chat with your doctor first.

Plant-Based Protein 101: How to Get Your Fix Without Meat

One of the biggest questions I get when someone finds out I’m vegan is always the same: how do I get my protein? Honestly, it wasn’t that long ago that I only thought of protein as meat, eggs, fish, and other animal products, too—it’s how the majority of us are raised. The reality, though, is that while meat is the norm, it’s certainly not the best option and you can get everything you need from plants.

What’s the Problem with Animal Protein?

First thing’s first: animal protein might just be the worst way to get your protein fix. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meat is pumped with hormones—including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone—which has one purpose: helping animals grow bigger and faster, enabling the meat industry to produce more products and make more money. Since you already have hormones in your own body, taking in excess quantities through your diet, too, isn’t great for your health. Studies have shown it can increase your risk of cancer and even lead to heart attacks, heart failure, or sudden death.

In addition to hormones, the antibiotics in meat are also a problem. Animals are raised in filthy, overcrowded environments, and to ensure they stay alive until slaughter, the meat industry uses 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the United States. Because of the high amount of antibiotics given to these animals, they become resistant to certain drugs, which potentially lets dangerous strains of bacteria into your body. The foodborne illnesses that result are serious business: Salmonella alone causes 1.2 million illnesses, as well as hundreds of deaths, in the U.S. every year.

Even with the hormones and antibiotics aside, eating animal protein can also lead to some serious health issues. Consuming meat has been found to greatly increase your risk of many different kinds of cancer, including breast cancer and colon cancer—two of the top killers of women and men. On top of that, it’s also been shown to negatively affect your gut health, increase your risk of having a stroke, and shorten your lifespan. And that’s just the short list. Plant-based protein, on the other hand, does quite the opposite, giving your body the fuel it needs without the consequences.

Busting the Plant-Based Protein Myth

One of the oldest myths about the vegan diet that’s still making the rounds is that it’s not possible to get all the essential amino acids you need from plants. (Something your body can’t make itself, so you have to get them through your diet.) Because of that, you’ve probably heard you have to combine two incomplete proteins (like beans and rice) to get a complete protein. The truth, though, is that the idea—which originated from the book Diet for a Small Planet written in 1971 by sociologist Frances Moore Lappé—has long been disproven.

Want to find out which plants are high in protein?
First read: The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources

In reality, if you’re eating a well-rounded diet, you’ll get all the protein you need—and you don’t have to eat animals to do it. According to the American Heart Association, “whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds, and nuts all contain both essential and non-essential amino acids”—and as long as you eat a variety and eat enough calories for your body every day, you’ll be A-OK. In fact, Dr. Michael Greger, MD, author of How Not to Die, says you’ll have more than enough, saying those who eat plant-based diets typically have twice the average daily protein requirements. If that wasn’t the case, how would some of the best plant-based athletes—including Tom Brady, who’s still going strong on the football field at 41 years old—be able to stay at the top of their game?

How Much Protein You Actually Need

To figure out your Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein, just use a simple formula: take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.36. For someone who’s 140 pounds, that would mean they should be aiming for around 50 grams of protein per day. If you want to factor in your needs based on your activity level, there’s a handy calculator for that, too.

It might seem like 50 or so grams is hard to reach, but not if you choose your sources wisely. In fact, if you wanted to, all you’d have to do is eat one cup of lentils. Seriously—one. That legume is just one of the many plants you can pick up at the supermarket to stay strong and healthy, though. For an entire list of other options, head on over to The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources.

The Best Plant-Based Protein Sources

The days of depending on meat for protein are long gone. In fact, meat is actually causing more harm than good—not just from what it goes through before getting on your plate, but also because of what it’s doing to your body after you eat it.

Research has shown just how detrimental animal protein can be to human health, whether that’s putting you at risk of breast cancer or a shortened lifespan. While the belief used to be that it’s impossible to get all the essential amino acids you need from plants (something your body can’t make itself), the myth has been disproven for years. In reality, you can get more than enough protein from a well-rounded diet of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, seeds, and nuts. And get this: those who get their fix from plants actually tend to take in twice the average daily protein requirements. No big deal, right?

Want more background info on plant vs. animal protein?
First read: Plant-Based Protein 101: How to Get Your Fix Without Meat

If you’re looking to add more plant-based protein into your diet and kick the meat off your plate once and for all, these are some of the best options to start with. Considering a 140-pound person’s Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is around 50 grams and one measley cup of lentils is exactly that, it’s safe to say you’ll be just fine. (To figure out how much protein you need in a day, use this simple formula: take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 0.36.)

1. Tofu

Photo: Yummy Beet

Amount: 20 grams of protein per cup

How to Use It: Bake it and add it into stir-fries, blend it into creamy sauces (like Alfredo!), scramble it, bake it and slather it with BBQ sauce for vegan wings, or blend it to use it as a dessert.

Recipe to Try: Vegan Penne Alfredo

2. Lentils

Amount: 50 grams of protein per cup

How to Use Them: Add them into your soups and stews, toss some in your pasta sauce (like Bolognese!), or make a lentil salad.

Recipe to Try: Vegan Sloppy Joes

3. Chia Seeds

Amount: 4.4 grams of protein per two Tbsp

How to Use Them: Put them in your smoothies, make pudding, or use them as an egg substitute.

Recipe to Try: Basic Chia Seed Pudding

4. Chickpeas

Amount: 39 grams of protein per cup

How to Use Them: Roast them in the oven for a snack, turn them into a homemade hummus, or use them in sandwiches and salads.

Recipe to Try: Chickpea Salad Sandwich

5. Black Beans

Photo: Minimalist Baker

Amount: 39 grams of protein per cup

How to Use Them: Put them in your tacos and burritos, toss some in your chili, or make burger patties.

Recipe to Try: Smoky BBQ Black Bean Veggie Burger

6. Edamame

Amount: 17 grams per cup

How to Use Them: Add them into your salads, boil them in their pods with sea salt, or purée them for a dip.

Recipe to Try: Edamame Hummus

7. Nutritional Yeast

vegan cheesy pasta

Amount: 9 grams of protein per two Tbsp

How to Use It: Sprinkle it on roasted veggies, add it into your smoothies, sprikle it on popcorn, or use it in “cheesy” vegan pasta dishes.

Recipe to Try: 4-Ingredient Vegan Mac and Cheese

8. Tempeh

Photo: Making Thyme for Health

Amount: 31 grams of protein per cup

How to Use It: Make a tempeh sandwich, turn it into bacon, put it in your stir-fries, or use it in your tacos.

Recipe to Try: Tempeh Bacon

9. Almonds

Amount: 20 grams of protein per cup

How to Use Them: Eat them plain as a snack, turn them into nut butter, roast them, or use them as a healthier crust for your desserts.

Recipe to Try: Chipotle Roasted Almonds

10. Broccoli

The best high protein plant foods

Amount: 17 grams per bunch

How to Use It: Bake it, add it into pasta dishes, make a salad, steam it, or purée it into soup.

Recipe to Try: Apple Broccoli Salad

Other MVPs

  • Mushrooms: 3 grams per cup
  • Jackfruit: 2.8 grams per cup
  • Cauliflower: 11 grams per medium head
  • Peas: 8 grams per cup
  • Quinoa: 8 grams per cup
  • Artichokes: 4.5 grams per medium artichoke

Yep, as you can see, no meat is needed up in here.

Hummus + Veggie Summer Rolls

Ever since moving back to Iowa, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how many vegan options there are here. Obviously I can’t just walk to Peacefood Cafe anymore (*insert tears here*), but hey—I’m a quick drive away from pizza with soy cheese and the Impossible Burger, and that’s fine by me. Plus, it’s safe to say I’m still nailing my version of the restaurant’s spicy Caesar dressing, so it’s basically like I’m there, right?

One of my favorite places I’ve eaten at in the area is actually Karma Coffee Cafe in Hiawatha—a small coffee shop that has a few really tasty vegan eats on the menu. Whenever I post up and work there, I always get a matcha latte and their summer rolls—both of which are completely to-die-for. Since I work from home most days, I decided to make some myself… and unlike the last time I tried working with rice paper (which was kind of like my first time with tofu), it was a total success.

While the restaurant uses what I’m guessing is a homemade sweet potato hummus, I subbed in some store-bought roasted red pepper hummus from Sabra until I have time to make their version myself. The rest of the ingredients are incredibly easy to prep, too: after a few minutes of chopping, you just have to assemble everything and you’re good to go.

Print Recipe
Hummus + Veggie Summer Rolls
A light, healthy, and delicious meal that only takes minutes to make. Double up the servings to prep lunch for the entire week.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Prep Time 5 minutes
  1. Cut and combine all the veggies and set them aside. Wash the spinach and pat dry.
  2. Get a large bowl or container—one that's big enough to sit the rice paper in without bending it—and fill it with warm water.
  3. Take a sheet of rice paper and put it in the water, making sure it's completely covered. After about 5 to 10 seconds, or until it's soft, remove the rice paper and set it on a plate.
  4. In the center of the rice paper, lay down a few pieces of spinach, then scoop on some hummus. Top with a small handful of the mixed veggies and save the extras for future rolls.
  5. Fold in the two sides of the rice paper over the veggies, then fold up the bottom portion. Roll into a cylinder so everything is secured inside.
  6. Eat right away or chill in the refrigerator. Want a dip? Mix a couple Tbsp of hummus with a splash of water, adding additional liquid until it's at your preferred consistency.

The Secret to Making Perfectly Crispy Tofu in the Oven

The very first time I ever ate tofu was during my initial attempt at going vegetarian when I was maybe 11 years old. As someone who totally depended on their parents for food—and whose idea of a quality meal at the time was making “cheese soup,” aka putting shredded mozzarella and water in a coffee cup and heating it in the microwave—my experience making the plant protein staple was pretty interesting, to say the least.

I vividly remember how everything went down: I crumbled the tofu up and threw it in a pan, definitely without any sort of oil. And minutes later, my dad walked in asking what the horrible smell was. Spoiler: it was my burnt tofu. Let’s just say the vegetarian thing only lasted about a month—and my dad still brings up my mishap from time to time, even though I’ve made him try tofu that’s actually made correctly and pretty darn tasty, if I do say so myself.

Today, I’m happy to say I’m a much better chef. Even tough I was pretty scarred from my first attempt at tofu, it didn’t take me long to try again. Because of that, I’ve fallen absolutely in love with the white spongey material, all thanks to figuring out exactly how to make it crispy. Because me and Jell-O-like tofu just don’t mix.

I’ve had plenty of people ask me how I make my tofu so crispy—which you can use for everything from sesame tofu or BBQ tofu wings—and the good news is it’s really stinkin’ easy. My trial-and-error over the past couple years will help you master the technique on the first try, no frying required.

how to make crispy tofu without frying it

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 package of extra-firm tofu (the “extra” firm part is very important!)
  • a cheesecloth or some paper towels
  • something heavy (pots and pans, books, canned soup—whatever you have on hand)

how to make crispy tofu without frying it

Step One:

The first step in making crispy tofu is draining the water out of the package, then wrapping your tofu block in some cheesecloth. The most important part of making sure your tofu cooks properly is getting out as much liquid as possible. To do this, stack something heavy—but not heavy enough to smush it!—on top of your wrapped tofu to gently press the water out. Leave it for 10 minutes, then flip it and repeat on the other side. If it’s extra wet, you might need to put some towels underneath to soak up more of the water.

how to make crispy tofu without frying it

how to make crispy tofu without frying it

Step Two:

While getting as much water out of your tofu as possible is crucial, so is the way you cut it. If it’s too thick, it won’t get crispy. But if it’s too thin, it will get too crispy. I usually slice it in 1/2-inch pieces, whether that’s strips (as pictured!) or cubes.

how to make crispy tofu without frying it

Step 3:

Preheat your oven to 450°F, place your tofu on a lightly-greased baking sheet (I use olive oil spray), and add some seasoning, if desired. (Trader Joe’s Garlic Salt mix is delish!) If I’m going to toss them in BBQ or another sauce after baking, I usually just pop them in the oven plain or use a little salt and pepper.

how to make crispy tofu without frying it

how to make crispy tofu without frying it

Step 4:

After you’re done seasoning, cook the tofu in the oven for about 15 minutes. Then take ’em out, flip each piece over, and bake for another 15 minutes. After you’re done, your tofu should be crispy goodness! If you don’t like super crispy tofu, simply bake it for a little less time.

Do you have any tips on making delicious, crispy tofu? Let me know in the comments!

Why to Add the Infrared Sauna to Your Wellness Routine

Hitting up the infrared sauna has become one of my favorite parts of my self-care routine. After hearing about it plenty of times—and even writing about it being one of New York City’s hottest (literally) new date spots!—I decided I should probably give it a try. And now that I have, let’s just say I’m hooked. (Sorry, bank account.)

Here’s everything you should know about infrared saunas and their science-backed benefits.

What’s an infrared sauna—and how’s it different than regular saunas?

When I tell people about infrared saunas, they often say, “Oh, yeah—my gym has one of those.” But this isn’t a regular sauna. It’s a cool sauna. Unlike traditional saunas which simply heat up the air around you to make you sweat, this variety uses infrared light to turn up the temperature, heating your body from the inside out.

While some saunas have fancy lighting, infrared light is actually invisible, so it’s 100% safe for you to use: it deeply penetrates your skin without causing any damage like regular light would. In fact, get this: it’s so harmless that it’s used to keep newborn babies warm in hospitals.

What do infrared saunas feel like?

Unlike traditional saunas where the air is usually so hot and dry that it can be hard to breathe, infrared saunas are warm but not at all uncomfortable. Don’t worry, though: you get all the same perks at a much lower temperature, making it perfect for people like me who don’t want to be miserable just to score some health benefits.

So far I’ve done a handful of 45-minute sessions at around 135 degrees and I’ve hardly broken a sweat. (I’ve been told that can happen at first, though—then as you start to use it more, your body starts spitting bullets like crazy.) It’s cozy, relaxing, and when it’s done, you get out wondering if it even did anything until you start feeling and seeing the immediate benefits.

What are the benefits of infrared saunas?

So, the infrared sauna feels great—but what does it actually do for your body, you ask? Past studies have shown regular use can help lower your blood pressure, improve your fitness level, reduce chronic pain, and keep your heart healthy. And that’s just the beginning.

On top of the physical health benefits, that increase in your body’s core temp can also clear up your skin and make it glow, help you relax and destress, rev up your metabolism, give you a major mood boost, help you age more gracefully, make you sleep better, and even aid in weight-loss (you can burn upward of 600 calories in just 30 minutes).

Here’s what I’ve noticed during my infrared sauna sessions so far.

I know hearing a bunch of facts can sometimes sound like mumbo-jumbo, so I’ll leave you with what I’ve personally experienced so far on top of the science.

Amazing skin: Every time I’ve used the infrared sauna, I’ve left with rosy cheeks and completely glowing skin. Any zits I had went down in size and disappeared within a day or two. And the first time I went in, I was having an allergic reaction to a new laundry detergent with a bumpy rash across my chest and stomach (#sensitiveskinproblems!), but within 24 hours, it was totally gone.

Insanely good sleep: One thing I didn’t expect after using the sauna was how well I would sleep. After every use, I snooze like a freakin’ baby. Usually Trixie wakes me up at least once during the night because she’s such a bed hog, but on the days I hang out in the heat, I’m out cold and there’s nothing that’s going to disrupt my deep slumber.

Mood boost + decreased stress/anxiety: If you’re having a bad day, go sit in the infrared sauna. By the time I’m done, I feel like a new person: I’m relaxed, happy, and all my worries have completely vanished. (As a chronic worrier, that’s kind of a big deal.) It’s also great for anxiety and completely calms down my nerves.

I’ve been going once a week and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. If you’ve tried out an infrared sauna, let me know about your experience down in the comments!

What Are Pili Nuts? Here’s Everything You Should Know

You probably already have your kitchen stocked with a variety of different nuts: almonds, cashews, pistachios—you name it. One you might not have heard of, though? Pili nuts. Here’s why you’re about to see them everywhere.

The Scoop on Pili Nuts

Found mostly in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia, the buttery nuts are considered a complete protein—just like most animal-based protein, as well as plant-based goodies like quinoa, seitan, soy, and buckwheat. Since they’re high in protein, calcium, potassium, and heart-healthy fats, they’re one of the most nutritious nuts around. It just so happens that the tasty powerhouse was kept on the DL until recently.

Pili nuts in their hard shells.

Pili Nut Benefits

Because of all its properties, pili nuts have some pretty impressive benefits. While the fiber aids digestion and antioxidants decrease inflammation and boost your immune system, the healthy fats can help balance your cholesterol and up your brain power. That’s not all, though: The nut’s high magnesium levels (more than any other nut!) could also play a role in helping you sleep at night.

How to Find ‘Em

So, by now you probably want to know how you can get your hands on some pili nuts, right? Luckily, it’s about to get super easy: The nut is already showing up on store shelves in many different forms. You can now buy salted or flavored nuts from Pili Hunters (there are even spicy chili and turmeric flavors!), pili nut butters, and  a creamy pili nut-based yogurt (that’s totally vegan!) available from Lavva.

You might not be able to find pili nuts in the bulk section of your favorite grocery store quite yet, but keep your eyes open. The buzzy food is definitely worth adding into your diet.

Recipe: Easy Spicy Vegan Caesar Salad

I had a lot of thoughts when we decided it was time to leave New York City, and one of them was: “But what am I going to do without my favorite salad?!” The second I first had Peacefood’s Spicy Unchicken Caesar Salad, I knew it was love. And that’s exactly why I made it my mission to create my own version I could eat anytime, anywhere.

Alright, let’s rewind for a sec. Before going vegan, I only ate Caesar salads because they were honestly the only kind of salad that tasted good to me. Yep, a true Midwesterner at heart. Getting that taste again—but honestly, an even better version—was kind of a dream come true. For one, it’s spicy. It’s also super creamy, flavorful, and is better for you than conventional store-bought Caesar dressings. It’s a win-win…win, win, win.

spicy vegan caesar salad

So, what’s all involved in making this salad? Well, Peacefood’s version includes crisp romaine lettuce, their famous homemade unchicken tenders, tempeh, red onion, croutons, and tomatoes. For this version, I decided to keep things simple and create a base you can play with a bit.

I try not to eat processed vegan food too often, but I wanted this recipe to have the full effect so I included two of my favorite vegan goodies that are generally super easy to find: Gardein’s Seven Grain Crispy Tenders and Lightlife Organic Fakin’ Bacon Tempeh Strips. If those brands aren’t available, don’t worry—any similar products will work. For when you want to be extra healthy, though, use some regular tempeh and baked tofu instead.

spicy vegan caesar salad

spicy vegan caesar salad

For the dressing, I remembered someone once told me vegan mayo makes a great base for Caesars, so I went with it and ended up with a version that I actually might like more than the original. Yeah, seriously. There’s just something about it: It’s fresh, has the perfect amount of heat, and adds so much flavor to a bowl of leaves.

spicy vegan caesar salad

This recipe is great on its own or with other veggies added in. And, good news: The dressing stays nice and fresh in the fridge. I usually keep it in a mason jar and give it a quick shake before I use it. It typically lasts for about 5 meals, or 5 days.

Ready to eat? Check out the recipe below. And if you try it out, tag me in your pictures on Instagram: @tehrene. I’d love to see what you think!

Print Recipe
Easy Spicy Vegan Caesar Salad
This spicy Caesar is creamy, filling, and brings the perfect amount of heat.
spicy vegan caesar salad
Spicy Caesar Dressing
Spicy Caesar Dressing
spicy vegan caesar salad
  1. Add all dressing ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Put in the refrigerator in an airtight container, like a mason jar, and make sure it's cold before using it. Or, stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes or so to chill it quickly for immediate use.
  2. Make the "chicken" tenders and tempeh according to directions. I prefer baking the tenders in the oven so they're extra crispy. I also always cut the tempeh up into small pieces, like shown in the picture above, before cooking: Just put them in a pan and sauté.
  3. Chop your romaine and toss in extra veggies, if you want them. Add the chicken tenders and tempeh on top. Drizzle on your chilled dressing and eat up!

Goodbye for Now, New York City

I’ve started writing this post about 100 times and I’ve realized that despite being a writer for a living, there’s no way I can possibly find the words to say everything I want to say in this post. But here it goes.

When I moved to New York City fresh out of college, I never thought I’d leave. It was something a small-town Iowa girl could only dream of, and it somehow became my reality. To this day I still can’t believe I packed my bags all alone and headed so far away from my family, my then-boyfriend (now fiancé!), and friends—everyone I knew and loved. (Alright, alright—I had Trixie, so that helped!)

I immediately immersed myself in everything this city had to offer and fell completely in love with the people, the noises, and the invigorating atmosphere. Heck, I even loved being smushed next to people in the subway: It was weirdly comforting. (That’s not the same case today, by the way.) Now, 5 years later, I’m saying goodbye to somewhere that instantly felt like home—for now, at least.

Clancy and I are heading back to Iowa to the city where we first met and fell in love: Iowa City, AKA home of the Iowa Hawkeyes and one vegan restaurant. He’s going back to medical school, and I couldn’t be more proud of him. And since I’m a freelance journalist, I’m so thankful to be able to continue doing what I love from a much nicer apartment that costs less than half of what we’re paying now! Like, the kind with a balcony, a dishwasher, in-unit laundry, and a bathtub you actually want to take a bath in… something I’m very excited about. I’ve yet to be able to use a bath bomb. It’s on my bucket list.

This is going to be a huge change, but it’s something we’re both ready for. Don’t get me wrong—I’m going to cry my eyes out the second it hits me that we’re actually leaving. But the best thing about New York City is that you can always come back, whether that’s for visits or for forever. There’s something about this place that holds onto you so incredibly tightly, even when you know it’s time to go.

No matter what happens in the future, I’ll cherish the memories I’ve made here forever. Speaking of… this is just a very small number of the many I’ll never forget.

1. Getting proposed to at my favorite spot in the city by my favorite boy in the world.

2. Seeing someone poop right in front of a family of tourists my first week in the city. Yep.

3. Interviewing Steve Carell during one of my first times on the red carpet.

4. Getting my first dream job (because life’s too short for one!) as an entertainment editor at Teen Vogue.

5. Having some of my best friends from back home come visit and going on adventures all over the city together.

6. Going ice skating with Lana and somehow not falling on our faces and/or breaking any bones.

7. Seeing the Backstreet Boys live in concert for the first time with Holly.

8. Seeing a giant, cat-sized rat running across the subway platform while people ran away screaming for their lives.

9. Experiencing a total city shut-down because of a massive blizzard and running through completely dead, snow-covered streets with Clancy.

10. Going to a Gavin DeGraw concert all by myself in Central Park and taking in every single second.

11. Daring Clancy to go to the bodega in his boxers one freezing cold winter night and laughing my butt off as he actually went through with it. (I followed with my camera, obviously.)

12. All the weekend road trips to farm sanctuaries, apple picking, and camping—well, glamping—in Woodstock.

13. Souring everywhere for pumpkins on Halloween with Holly, begging stores and restaurants to sell us theirs, just so we could carve them. (There was a shortage, evidently.)

14. Speaking of, all the Halloweens in general. There’s nothing better than seeing thousands of costumed people running around the city.

I mean……..

Like, c’mon…

15. All of the epic karaoke nights in Koreatown.

16. All the afternoons spent lying in the grass in Central Park with Clancy and Trixie listening to people play Beatles songs at Strawberry Fields.

17. Doing my first (and only!) Color Run with Lana.

18. Getting to show my family around New York City and impressing them with my navigation skills.

19. When Aaron Carter gave me his number after interviewing him. It’s still in my phone. My 10-year-old self would never forgive me if I deleted it.

20. Getting caught in the rain with Lana, like, 20 different times.

21. Getting serenaded by Jesse McCartney. No, seriously. You can watch it here.

22. Scouring the city for vegan food. Then eating so, so, so much of it. I’ll never forget you, Red Bamboo and Peacefood.

23. Having one of the most epic, movie-like nights out with Hilary at a club that felt like a literal rich kid’s mansion.

24. All the times I snuck donuts or Chipotle into the movie theater.

Really, everything. The moments I’ll cherish the most aren’t anything crazy—they’re spending time with the people I love. Eating, talking, hanging out, walking around, watching Netflix, whatever.

It was a wild ride, New York City. See you soon.