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Vegetarian Starter Guide

Do you want to help get the word out about the importance of going veg but don’t have much free time to volunteer? I know how you feel. I used to leaflet at outreach events for Compassionate Action for Animals but became busy with other activities. I didn’t have as much time to volunteer but still wanted to help in some way.

Then, while walking near downtown one sunny day, I encountered a news stand stocked with Vegetarian Starter Guides and was curious to know who stocked it. I asked around and discovered that CAA volunteers distributed these guides throughout the city. Aha! Here was something I could easily jump into doing.

Dropping off literature at coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, and other locations can be a convenient way to volunteer. Most us pass by these places during our daily commutes. When we take a moment to leave some outreach literature at these locations, we make it possible for others to learn about the benefits of a vegetarian diet.

Research has shown that most people care about the well-being of farm animals. Seeing a Vegetarian Starter Guide is a visible reminder of farm animal issues and only reinforces these shared values. Additionally, research has shown that 12 million people in the United States are very interested in moving towards a vegetarian diet. Vegetarian Starter Guides equip people with the basic information needed to go veg confidently and effectively.

I’ve been dropping off this kind of literature at co-ops, news stands, and coffee shops for several years now. Often, the pamphlets disappear in a few weeks before I revisit the location. Someone once even contacted CAA office requesting that more guides be dropped off since they had run out. This person had wanted to share the Vegetarian Starter Guides with friends. Clearly, our community wants this information.

Feeling strongly about this outreach method, I’ve been recruiting others to be a part of it. If you are passionate about creating a more veg-friendly community right here in Minnesota, you can join our Lit Distribution Team. Email me at, and I’ll give you the lowdown on how to get started. Together, we can take compassionate action for animals!

Cooking Class with AmyLeo: Very Vital, Versatile Veggies


CAA volunteer and vegan powerhouse AmyLeo Barankovich is leading a cooking class at Valley Natural Foods on Tuesday, August 19th at 6:00 pm. AmyLeo will show you why veggies need not be gulped down as a boring side dish. These amazing gifts from nature offer up everything from B vitamins to protein. Yes, protein is plentiful in vegetables! Be prepared to experience something new and delightful. You will even get to eat veggies for dessert. Samples will be served, and you won’t leave hungry!

Very Vital, Versatile Veggies

Tuesday, August 19th

6:00 – 8:00 pm

Valley Natural Foods

13750 County Road 11

Burnsville, MN 55337


$10 (co-op member-owners) and for $15 (for non-members)

Register in advance!

Cookbook Review: Salad Samurai

Fiery Fruit and Quinoa

Is it just me or are salads sometimes a double-edged sword for vegans? On one hand, you’ve got the restaurant where the only vegan option is a very basic garden salad and those unfamiliar with veganism assume that you only eat salads. On the other hand, you have Terry Hope Romero’s Salad Samurai: 100 Cutting-Edge, Ultra-Healthy Easy-To-Make Salads You Don’t Have To Be Vegan To Love, in which flavor, texture, and visual appeal meld in delicious dishes like Fiery Fruit & Quinoa Salad or my personal favorite, the Tempeh Reubenesque Salad. Romero hits a home run with her newest cookbook, which offers a hundred recipes that can be mixed and matched to make countless meals that will make even the most reluctant a fan of salads.

Salad Samurai offers recipes by season and supplies the basic building blocks for you to choose-your-own-adventure with dressings, proteins, and salad toppers. (Homemade croutons are the way to go!) She encourages you to pick a day of the week to prep a bunch of options to have at the ready for salads all week long. Throughout the book, beautiful, full-color photos of the dishes will make your mouth water. While the salads certainly have you covered for lunch and dinner, the final chapter includes sweet and savory breakfast options like Overnight Oats with Mexican Chocolate Creme and Avocado & Tofu Breakfast Bowl with Carrot Ginger Dressing.

With most recipes, Romero includes cooking tips under the heading “The Spin” and variations labeled as “Samurai Stylings.” Of the seven variations for the loyal standby ranch dressing, my favorites included maple “bacon” and creamy sriracha. Romero also does a great job of labeling recipes as raw or gluten-free for those looking for those options.

Herbed Pea Ricotta on Garden Fresh Tomatoes with Basil is summer-on-a-plate.
Herbed Pea Ricotta on Garden Fresh Tomatoes with Basil is summer-on-a-plate.

Romero is an expert with flavor and technique, but she shows restraint with her gourmet prowess and provides recipes that even novices in the kitchen can execute. I tried the Relaxed Shredded Kale, a simple side salad recipe. I gobbled it up and made a mental note to add it to the weekly rotation. Following her recipe guidance and using a standard blender, I whipped up an ultra-creamy Herbed Pea Ricotta and served it on a bed of sliced tomatoes. (Try the leftover ricotta on pasta — so good!) I made the tangy, creamy Galapagos Island Dressing with the smoky-sweet Tempeh Bacon Bites and rye Classic Croutons and had a dinner party of omnivores raving for the Reubenesque Salad. What a clever take on the classic Reuben! The dressings and salad toppers often made more than needed for a recipe, but I didn’t mind. I could use the leftover ingredients to create quick salads while on the go, and I would enjoy the intensely tasty 5-spice Tamari Almonds on their own as a protein-packed snack.

If you love flavor and want some help creating healthy, mostly non-processed meals that will satisfy your taste buds and fill your tummy, check out Salad Samurai.

Book Review: Veganomics

Veganomic cover image

Have you ever wondered what kind of person reduces their meat consumption, becomes vegetarian, or becomes vegan? And why do they do it? And why do some of them return to their carnivorous ways? Nick Cooney’s new book, Veganomics: The Surprising Science on What Motivates Vegetarians, from the Breakfast Table to the Bedroom, offers some possible answers to these questions.

I met Nick when he spoke at Their Lives, Our Voices in 2010. He talked about the need to use psychology to influence human behavior. Soon after TLOV, he wrote his first book, Change of Heart, which applied this kind of scientific research to his recommendations for activists.

Veganomics is an excellent follow-up. In preparation for writing this book, Nick thoroughly reviewed dozens of surveys that documented why different groups of people did or did not consume animal products. While the steady flow of statistics may have a mind-numbing effect, the conclusions are ultimately illuminating. For example, the surveys unanimously show that animal suffering and human health are the primary motivating factors to reduce meat consumption, but that environmental devastation and world hunger are much less influential.

Unfortunately, even the best research on which the book was based could be much better. Many of the surveys are old, have a small sample size, and limit the conversation to diet, not exploring other forms of activism, such as sharing videos, volunteering, or donating funds. With this in mind, we can assume that these conclusions are not completely accurate, comprehensive, or current.

All in all, the book furthers the conversation about how we can use science to improve our strategy for helping animals. Nick provides clear recommendations for the demographics we should target and the messages that we should send in order to have the most far-reaching effect. Along with that, the survey findings are often amusing or fascinating.

This book is an excellent read for anyone involved in the animal protection movement. I highly recommend it as a useful resource that may take our work for the animals to the next level.





Veganize It! Chocolate Chip Cookies

vegan chocolate chip cookies

Veganize verb to modify a recipe by substituting plant-based foods for animals products. “I’m going to veganize these chocolate chip cookies!”

You can veganize just about anything. Start with Nestle’s classic Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. Simply replace the egg with Ener-G Egg Replacer and the butter with a nondairy buttery spread. Use nondairy semisweet chocolate chips, and you’re good to go. Easy, yummy, and cruelty-free. Who can go wrong with that?

Try your hand at our recipe for Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies and share them with all of the world.

Vegan Main Dish Competition at the Minnesota State Fair

Potato Pancakes

The Minnesota State Fair is having a vegan main dish competition for the third year in a row. The judges are looking for tasty, easy-to-prepare dishes that supply a complete protein. Consider entering one of your favorite original vegan recipes. Your goodies will be on display in the Creative Activities Building, and the winner will receive a ribbon, a check, and vegan cookbook.

The category is listed as lot #1110 on page 19 of the Creative Activities booklet. Register to enter the competition by August 5th and take this opportunity to show everyone at the State Fair how delicious vegan food can be.

Get Active for Animals in August

Baby Chick

The summer of animal advocacy continues. Just yesterday, we helped distribute 13,000 leaflets at the Warped Tour’s most recent stop in Shakopee, Minnesota. Thirteen thousand leaflets! That’s a lot of people receiving a message of compassion for animals such as Kevin, a chicken bred by the egg industry. Like all male chicks who can’t lay eggs, Kevin was likely to be killed by being tossed alive into a grinding machine. Fortunately, Kevin was rescued from this fate and is now living out his days in a farm animal sanctuary.

Everyone who receives a leaflet is learning about Kevin and hopefully making changes in their diet accordingly. These changes have a ripple effect, saving more animals like Kevin and inspiring others to adopt a more compassionate way of life.

August brings new opportunities for powerful outreach on behalf of animals. Leafleting and tabling are both excellent ways to advocate for animals. We reach many people in a short amount of time and have great conversations while doing it.

CAA volunteers gather after leafleting for the Warped Tour.

Saturday, August 2nd. Leaflet after the Paul McCartney concert

Saturday, August 16th. Table at Indiafest

Sunday, August 17th. Leaflet at Franklin Open Streets

For more information or if you would like to volunteer at any of these outreach events, email

Chicken Run Rescue: An Oasis of Peace

Matt with a chicken

Compassionate Action for Animals is hosting a tour of Chicken Run Rescue on Saturday, August 9th, from noon to 1:00 p.m. I hope you’ll come and experience for yourself the peace and healing of this chicken sanctuary in Minneapolis.

Two years ago, I had an amazing experience visiting Chicken Run Rescue, which provides temporary shelter and veterinary care for neglected, abused, and abandoned chickens and works to find adopters in the Twin Cities area. It’s a little oasis of peace in the middle of a busy city. I had passed by the sanctuary many times, and I was surprised that something like this existed.

I was even more surprised by what I saw there. Some of the chickens had been seriously wounded before being rescued from cockfighting rings. Others had been abandoned in the suburbs by “backyard farmers.” (One chicken had lost most of his feet to frostbite.) I didn’t see any indication that their difficult pasts had scarred them, however; they all seemed playful and peaceful, and my whole family had a lot of fun watching them run around together. Clearly, Chicken Run Rescue had allowed them a chance to heal in every way.

I got to hold a chicken, which was really special. If you visit Chicken Run Rescue’s Facebook page, you can see Shirley, Buster, Britt, and other chickens you might get to hold!

RSVP on our Facebook event page or email me at We will send the event location to those who RSVP that they are attending.


Vegan Potluck Picnic in the Park

watermelon in the sky

Here’s your opportunity to cavort in the summer breezes with other like-minded folks who care about animals. Compassionate Action for Animals is hosting a potluck picnic in Washburn Fair Oaks Park in Minneapolis on Sunday, July 27th at noon. We’ll be meeting on the southwest corner of the park, near the intersection of East 24th Street and Stevens Avenue.

Every dish at the potluck will be vegan. You can always bring something simple like watermelon, or you can try your hand at preparing a new vegan dish. Maybe Sweet Potato and Kale Patties or a batch of vegan Thin Mint Cookies. Or something exotic like a Curried Chickpea Salad or traditional like a Creamy Potato Salad. The options are endless.

Feel free to bring a friend. Not only do events like this fortify our existing community, but they show our omnivorous friends how varied and delicious a plant-based diet can be and how fun and welcoming our animal-friendly community can be.

RSVP on the Facebook event page or email


Unny’s Presentation at Animal Rights 2014

Unny speaking at Animal Rights 2014

Last weekend, I presented “How to Plan a Veg Fest” at the Animal Rights National Conference. It was my first time speaking at the conference, and I was honored to have a chance to present what I’ve learned through producing Twin Cities Veg Fest with Compassionate Action for Animals.

Twin Cities Veg Fest has been one of our most successful events. It drew 2,000 people last year, and we received tremendous amounts of positive feedback. People tasted excellent vegan food and were empowered with resources to move towards a plant-based diet. Just as importantly, the festival showed the general public that many people care about animals and are embracing lifestyle changes to help them. At the conference, I shared with other animal protection activists what I’ve learned so that they can do the same thing in their own communities.

I don’t have very much experience with public speaking, but this subject was easy for me to talk about. I’m enthusiastic about sharing what I know, as I see the veg fest as being an effective form of outreach that I hope other communities will try. After the talk, I heard from at least three people who are interested in planning a festival. I couldn’t ask for a better response than that!

Last year, CAA created a website as a resource for other communities interested in planning a veg fest. All of the information from my talk at the conference can be found there.