Photos from the 10th Annual Vegan Chili Cook-Off

The 10th Annual Vegan Chili Cook-Off was a blast! Over 250 attendees savored vegan chilis of bean and meatless meat varieties and were introduced to animal protection, environmental, and food waste issues.

Many thanks to all of the contestants (including those in our brand-new Professionals category) for providing amazing vegan chili for all to share while enjoying friendly competition. You showed how delicious, satisfying, and easy to prepare vegan food can be.

The three winners of this year’s Cook-Off by category are:

  • Bean Based: Jenny Newgard aka Contestant 9
  • Meatless Meat: Marina and Liberty Kirkeide aka Contestant 13
  • Professional: Reverie Mobile Kitchen aka Contestant 6

This event would not have been the success it was without the support of our stellar volunteers and Chili Cook-Off planning team. Thank you for your support with planning, setting up, cleaning up, making extra chili, and more––THANK YOU!

Thank you to Reverie Mobile Kitchen and Farmaste, who generously donated to the evaluation gift basket. We’d like to extend an additional thank you to Farmaste, Spring Farm Sanctuary, SoulSpace, Little Acorn, Fur Free Minneapolis, Mighty Earth, and the Food Recovery Network for their support of the event and information they provided to guests!

Finally, thank you to everyone who came to join in the fun. Whether you are new to vegan food or have been a part of the local vegan community for a long time, we hope you found inspiration and support in moving further down the path of compassionate living.

We hope you’ll join us at our Annual Banquet, otherwise known as Drake’s Drinks Celebrating 21 Years of Compassionate Action for Animals at the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion at Harriet Island Park on Saturday, March 23. With a gourmet vegan dinner catered by Gorkha Palace, delicious certified-vegan cocktails by Drake’s Organic Spirits, and cupcakes from Vegan East (it wouldn’t be a party without cake!), you won’t want to miss this. Get your tickets today!

Grow Baby Grow! – Growing Up Vegan Part 1

Written by Suzy Sorensen, RD, LD, CDE

Are plant-based diets ok for babies? You bet they are! The AND says “Appropriately planned…vegan diets…are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood and for athletes.” (1)

But, remember that infants are not just little grown-ups! During the first year of life, babies have unique nutrition needs to support accelerated growth and development.

A parent’s milk (breast milk) is the best food for infants and it’s the only food needed from birth until 4-6 months. Balanced vegan diets can meet the needs of older babies.

If baby is not able to breastfeed, commercial iron-fortified formulas should be used. Currently, soy formula is the only reliable, safe vegan option. 

At 4-6 months old, babies start to show they are ready to try solid foods! They can keep their heads upright and sit with little support. 

The first food is typically baby cereal fortified with iron and zinc diluted with breast milk or formula to a thin consistency. As baby grows, it can be thicker. Often soft fruits and vegetables are added next. These can be pureed or fork mashed at home, and store-bought baby food can be a convenient option. 

For safety, add in just one new food every 3-4 days to identify any food sensitivities.

As baby gets better at chewing, pasta and soft-cooked grains, soft bread, sweet potatoes, cereal, and crackers can be added. At 7-8 months, add in cooked and mashed or pureed beans, lentils, tofu, and non-dairy yogurt if desired.

Babies need enough calories and fat to support normal growth. Items like hummus, avocado, tofu, and cooked dried fruits can offer a boost. Calcium can come from calcium set tofu, fortified juice or yogurt, and dark leafy greens like kale and broccoli.

To avoid choking risk, foods like nuts, nut butters, grapes, chunks of veggie dogs, whole beans, and popcorn should not be given to babies.

Infants often need to be fed every hour or 2. After starting on solids, babies will need at least 3 small meals and 2-3 small snacks daily to meet their needs. 

Ideally, baby will sit at the table with a parent who can model healthy eating at meal time!

Sample menu for 10 month old vegan baby: 

Breakfast: ¼ cup fortified baby cereal with 4 oz breast milk/formula & 2 TBS mashed banana

Snack: ¼ slice soft bread & 4 oz breast milk/formula

Lunch: ¼ cup fork mashed lentils, 2 TBS steamed chopped kale, 2 TBS applesauce, 2 TBS quinoa, 2 TBS mashed avocado, 4 oz breast milk/formula

Snack: 4 oz breast milk/formula

Dinner: ¼ cup cubed tofu, ¼ cup fortified baby cereal, 2 TBS fork mashed sweet potato, 2 TBS peaches, 4 oz breast milk/formula

Snack: 6 oz breast milk/formula

Breastmilk or infant formula should continue during the first 12 months. It is not safe to use plant-milks (like plain soy or almond milk) or homemade formulas as a substitutes. They do not have the right nutrients and do not have enough of many vitamins that a growing baby needs for health.

Supplemental B12 and Vitamin D are recommended for infants along with iron starting at 4 months. Always discuss with baby’s doctor before starting a supplement.

(1) Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Please note: This information, while accurate, does not provide an all-inclusive feeding plan and is not intended to substitute personal medical advice. It is intended to offer guidance only. We recommend working with a registered dietitian to help meet any specific questions you may have.


Suzy Sorensen is a Twin Cities-based Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator who is passionate about plant-based eating! She has a Certificate of Training in Vegetarian Nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and opened Move2Veg Nutrition Counseling in 2009 to support those interested in plant-based eating. For more information, visit move2veg.com.

Volunteer Shoutout: Suzy Sorensen, RD, LD, CDE

Suzy Sorensen is a Twin Cities-based Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator who is passionate about plant-based eating! She has a Certificate of Training in Vegetarian Nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and opened Move2Veg Nutrition Counseling in 2009 to support those interested in plant-based eating. For more information, visit move2veg.com.

This month, the first part of her new four-part nutrition series, Growing Up Vegan, will be published on our blog. The series will explore ideas for supported eating during the four main stages of development. Read on to learn how Suzy’s passions for veganism and nutrition intersect.

What drew you personally to veganism?

A vegetarian friend invited me along to a PETA seminar here in the Cities (nearly 20 years ago). That first opened my eyes to what happens to animals and the choices I can make to reduce suffering. That’s where I connected with CAA! My “aha moment” was very shortly after that. We were visiting friends in Florida and happened to be there for lobster season: a few days when scuba diving for lobsters is allowed. Essentially, a hunting season. I was able to catch a lobster (the guilt is as present today as it was then). When we got to the dock, the idea was to twist the animal in half, separating head (thrown away) from tail (the desirable part to eat). I could not, would not ever do that. That was it. If I couldn’t kill an animal to eat it, I would not have someone else do it for me and pretend that was ok. That up-close experience with an animal headed for the plate made compassionate eating immediate, personal, and real to me.I sometimes say a lobster changed my life! And I’m grateful.

What drew you to your practice (and study of) nutrition?

I have a degree in education and taught science for 7 years. I was looking for a change and took a career development class. I shadowed a dietitian, took an intro to nutrition class, and it was love at first sight! I realized that food is powerful medicine, much more than just “fuel for the machine.” Food plays a critical role in health and disease. I still consider myself a teacher, but with a new subject matter—nutrition! Later, when I became vegan for compassionate reasons, I was driven to learn about plant-based nutrition to take care of myself and my family. It didn’t take long to realize that there was a lot of misinformation out there among my friends and my patients! That’s what prompted me to start Move2Veg, there is a need for accurate, evidence-based, individualized nutrition information. With that, we can be our best plant-based selves!

What are three tips you would emphasize to a friend transitioning to a plant-based diet? 

1) It does not have to be complicated or difficult to move to a plant-based diet. There aren’t “rules” or a “right way” to do it. We each need to do what works best for us to reach our goal. 

2) Make connections, you aren’t alone! Go to pot lucks, dine outs, other social events, connect with a mentor, meet with a plant-based dietitian! We can learn from and be inspired by others.  

3) Forgive yourself—learning something new takes time and practice, there will be moments where it doesn’t go quite as planned but tomorrow is another day.

Do you have a favorite food trend?

Easy, plant-based! The research shows more people than ever are giving it a try! Specific food trend? SO many new vegan cheeses, I’m always curious to check them out. Lots of people say cheese is the hardest thing to eliminate—not anymore!

Do you see a shift happening in public perceptions of nutrition?

Absolutely! I work in clinic part-time as a diabetes educator. Patients are interested and excited to hear more when I bring up vegan diet as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It’s not a foreign concept. Better yet, many more people come in already giving it a try after reading a book or seeing a movie like Forks Over Knives! The word is out about the powerful health properties of a vegan diet!

To read more from Suzy, follow her new four-part nutrition series, Growing Up Vegan, released monthly on our blog starting March 6.

Celebrate our 21st with a Delicious Vegan Feast!

We’re turning 21, and you’re invited to celebrate these years of advocating for animals with some amazing vegan food!

Join us at the Clarence W. Wigington Pavilion at Harriet Island Park on Saturday, March 23 for Drake’s Drinks Celebrating 21 Years of Compassionate Action for Animals and enjoy a delicious vegan dinner catered by Gorkha Palace, an organic restaurant specializing in conscientiously prepared Indian, Nepali and Tibetan foods. And since it’s CAA’s 21st birthday, there will also be three vegan-certified cocktails from Drake’s Organic Spirits and cupcakes from Vegan East. You won’t want to miss this!

Continue reading

Meet the Chili Cook-Off Planning Committee!

Meet the team behind the 10th Annual Vegan Chili Cook-Off!

Emma Cameron

What’s your role on the Chili Cook-off Committee? I’ve been coordinating the volunteers, making regular posts to the CAA and TCVF social media pages (e.g. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) advertising the event, and otherwise doing tasks that come up!

What else have you been up to this winter? This winter has mostly been about moving from Madison to Minneapolis! I started working for Mercy For Animals this past summer, working remotely. Given the remote nature of my role, I considered making a move to a few different cities, and ultimately went with Minneapolis. Since December, I’ve been getting settled in, meeting people, and exploring the vegan offerings of the Twin Cities.

What’s your favorite outreach event outside of the chili cook-off? I’m not sure that I have enough experience to say yet, but I imagine it will soon be the Twin Cities Veg Fest!

Do you have a favorite kind of chili, topping, or side? If I make chili, I love to add some type of corn chip topping, and I prefer to stick to the bean-based varieties, as opposed to those with mock meats. I also think it’s absolutely essential to serve cornbread with chili!

Luna with two residents of SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary

Luna Guo

What’s your role on the Chili Cook-off Committee? Marketing consultant and helping to plan the overall event.

What else have you been up to this winter? Everything! Dancing, horses, skating––I’m always doing something. I like to keep myself active and busy.

What’s your favorite outreach event outside of the chili cook-off? Twin Cities Veg Fest is kind of amazing, and by kind of I mean really. I love having all the delicious food in one spot and connecting with other people and the different organizations at the event.

Do you have a favorite kind of chili, topping, or side? I love making chili with all sorts of mock meats. You can have toppings and sides? I’ve been eating it all wrong then! [A note from CAA: We’d like to assure you that there is no wrong way to enjoy chili, whether you enjoy with toppings, sides, or sideless.]

Maya with Amos of SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary

Maya Ulrich

What’s your role on the Chili Cook-off Committee? My role is student outreach and general communication between the student union and CAA.

What else have you been up to this winter? My life as a student is pretty active. I have been running all over campus trying to keep up with all of my commitments. I am working at the Weisman Art Museum, volunteering with Friends of the Free Arts, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Aurora Center, and I’m an intern for Take Action MN. Honestly, staying busy has been the only thing keeping me warm in these cold winter months.

What’s your favorite outreach event outside of the chili cook-off? I really have enjoyed bake sales on campus in the past, but tabling and pay-per-view is always pretty great. You really get to connect with the Compassionate Action for Animals community.

Do you have a favorite kind of chili, topping, or side?I really like doing simple bean-based ones, because they are cheap and easy to make. Sometimes I’ll throw in some tofu too!

Volunteers make the Chili Cook-Off happen (and get in free)! Sign up here to get involved as a volunteer or get your ticket here to this year’s cook-off. See you on Saturday, February 23 at 6:00 pm!

Vegan Valentine’s Celebrations

Whether you’re into simple gestures or going all out for a friend, loved one, or yourself, the Twin Cities have many ways to celebrate love compassionately this week.

In case you’re a last-minute planner, we compiled a list of just some of the vegan Valentine’s specials and celebrations going on around the cities.

Make a Valentine’s stop at a vegan restaurant!

If your style is a dinner out, support local businesses as they host vegan Valentine’s date nights on February 14. Some of the specials we’ve seen include:

From left to right: Franco Holder, Mistress Ginger, and Joey Clark.

Let’s Misbehave – Mistress Ginger’s 6th Annual Valentine’s Cabaret, February 13 and 14 at LUSH

Special discount ticket offer for Mistress Ginger’s 6th annual Valentine’s show!

Let’s Misbehave
Mistress Ginger Sings Cole Porter
TONIGHT Wednesday, February 13 & tomorrow, Thursday February 14
7:30pm (Doors at 7pm)
LUSH, 990 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis

VIP $25 – Includes reserved seating plus a glittering gift bag of vegan Gingersnatch Cookies
General Admission $15 – Use promo code Ginger5 for $5 off!
Get your tickets in advance at LUSHmpls.com

Note that VIP ticket sales close 24 hours before showtimes.
Promo code Ginger5 is only valid for general admission tickets purchased online.

Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1929. Mistress Ginger, our venerable cabaret queen, has unearthed a treasure trove of delicious Cole Porter tunes for your Valentine’s amusement. With Franco Holder on piano and special guest Joey Clark, Ginger takes you on a vintage musical journey from a chic penthouse in Manhattan to the Café de Paris. Revel in the music of one of the twentieth century’s greatest — and gayest — composers, whose songs are famously full of glamour, wit, passion, and the permission to be naughty. Let’s do it! More info at junkyardcabaret.com.

Staying in?

  • If you missed their Valentine’s Dinner for Two, you can still pick up something sweet or savory from The Herbivorous Butcher to feature in your Valentine’s meal. Check out their daily menu here and mark your calendar for the reairing of their Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives episode on February 15 and 16 (because what’s more romantic than Guy Fieri eating a vegan deli sandwich?)
  • Seed Cafe put together an awesome post with three different menus you can make at home that are sure to satisfy whatever kind of craving you have this week. Check out their Valentine’s Dinner 3 Ways here!
  • Check out recipes for some of the most delicious looking vegan Valentine’s desserts on Vegan Faux Ever as well as some quick tips about what to check for if you’re buying a treat store-bought.
  • Not into baking? Vegan East has you covered with all of the sweet treats you could dream of!

And don’t forget our annual Valentine’s Bake Sale!

Although Valentine’s and Galentine’s will have passed, there’s no rule that says you can’t keep spreading the love around! Treat yourself with a vegan dessert made by one of our baketivists at our Galentine’s Vegan Bake Sale, Monday, February 18 from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm at Coffman Memorial Union.

Meet Our New Board Member – Henry Patterson

CAA welcomes Henry Patterson to our board of directors. Read on to learn more about him, his various projects, and how he got involved with CAA and working for the animals.

Throughout his career, Henry has worked primarily as a project manager and consultant in manufacturing for various technology projects including early medical films and x-ray equipment for 3M, data storage and backup, and CD-ROM, as well as a furniture company. “I started out in engineering in 3M, doing summer internships during college, worked part-time permanent, and then got a permanent job in the Twin Cities.” His work brought him from Minnesota to California and then back to Minnesota.

Most recently he’s been working with startups in addition to his non-profit work. An alum of St. Thomas Academy (STA),  he’s fairly active with the school and their STA Connections group. He also serves on the board of the Sally Manzara Interpretive Nature Center in the Friends of Lake Elmo Sunfish Lake Park, which opened June 2018.

At home, he spends time with his two Basenjis, Lokan and Emi, and enjoys taking photos––in the summer, he’s been trying out drone photography.

Journey to veganism

Henry started his journey to being vegan when he lived with his brother in California. His brother was in law school at the time and became vegetarian after reading, Diet for a Small Planet. “I said, ‘Make a case for why I should go from being an omnivore to vegetarian,’ which he did.” His brother also recommended that he read the same book. “I would say 99% of my diet went from being an omnivore to primarily vegetarian diet, which I maintained for several years.”

After moving back to Minnesota, he went completely vegan. “I realized that there were more products available to make it easier, more options at places I could eat, most restaurants I could call ahead and find out what was on the menu if it wasn’t clear––it became a lot easier.” The hardest thing to eliminate? “Cheese was really the only thing I was still having that was keeping me on a vegetarian diet was cheese. I started going to classes in the Twin Cities to learn how to make vegan cheeses. Between that and reading stuff, I really saw no reason not to switch to vegan.”

“I think I’m a lot more aware and conscious of the environment around me, how important the footprint that we have on the planet and the things that we do, how much waste we have and how we treat the planet and animals on the planet. I started to see the suffering more and I want to do something to stop that.”

Involvement with CAA, joining the Board

Henry first got involved with CAA after attending a few Twin Cities Veg Fests. He’s been involved with the planning committees for both the 2018 Vegan Thanksgiving and 2019 Vegan Chili Cook-Off.

As a new board member, Henry wants to support CAA’s mission through expanding the reach of our mission and increase exposure. “You want to get more people more exposure and help on how to maintain the diet, how they can continue to make progress. I think I can help there and that’s where we need to put some effort.”

“What I’ve seen that’s given me a lot of hope for the future are companies like The Herbivorous Butcher and J. Selby’s. I never thought I’d actually see something like them in the Midwest and in Minnesota,” said Henry. “We still have a long way to go, but it’s really exciting to see the growth of the Twin Cities and in my mind I’ve sort of grown with it and I’m encouraged that there’s a lot more things we can do, a lot more we can expose people to.”

Interested in joining CAA’s board of directors? Our board meetings are open to prospective members. If you are interested in attending a board meeting, email board@exploreveg.org to find out when the next board meeting will take place.

Responses to Dominion

Dominion is an eye-opening film that many people don’t want you to see. Fortunately, Director Chris Delforce does, and he created an incredible documentary that exposes the ongoing atrocities committed by modern animal agriculture. Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara, Dominion is a hard-hitting documentary that has won multiple awards for its writing, directing, and music.

For some, realizing the origin story of what we once called food is a difficult process with many stops along the way. Dominion is a two-hour wakeup call to those still consuming animal products as well as to those who are not. In anticipation of the Twin Cities premiere screening of the documentary this weekend, we compiled some of the reviews the film has received.

This film will be one that switches on the lights… challenging an ignoble atrocity that masquerades as an “industry.”

Philip Wollen Philanthropist, former Citibank VP via Dominion Website

This is the most important film you will ever watch. This documentary is a shocking expose of hidden violence behind our food system. Dozens of people had to step out of the theater where I saw it in San Francisco because they could not face the actual real-life footage of what happens behind the walls of animal farms and slaughterhouses. The filmmaker had his house raided by the Australian government and faced repeated threats for releasing this footage. This documentary is going to turn the world upside-down.

Julianne Perry via imdb (10/10)

The filming techniques are staggering in their construction and the crew’s unwavering commitment to reveal the darkness is worthy of the utmost admiration… The film’s core value is to make us think about our relationship with the animal kingdom and assess the power we use (and abuse) but more than that, through the viscera stained graphic footage and lingering power, Dominion exposes how we need to grow, we need to improve and frankly, we need to wake the hell up.

Jack Bottomley via UK Film Review

This documentary will open your eyes to the truth about the ‘food’ you choose to eat. It explodes the myth of ‘humane slaughter’, show the reality of ‘free range’ and every day farm practices and animal agriculture in Australia, but common around the world, as well as some other practices that occur in other countries to bring us in the West, our ‘creature comforts’ like down pillows and fur coats.

The undercover footage that was bravely obtained by activists and painstakingly put together for this film, along with the drone footage, has some of the most moving and powerful scenes portraying the suffering and horror that is the life and death of farmed animals.

Especially if you still consume animal products, have the courage to watch this film and see if your choice to do so really stacks up as a good reason to do something that requires so much suffering, and creates so much waste, greenhouse gases and poor human health outcomes.

Kali via imdb (10/10)

Whatever your views on eating meat this film will surely make you think hard about the life choices you make and what we can collectively do to be kinder to the animals we share this world with.

Michael Phillips via imdb (10/10)

To experience Dominion for yourself, join us this Saturday at 1pm in Coffman Memorial Hall for the Twin Cities premiere screening. Learn more about the screening here and buy tickets here.

How to respond to those “what if” questions

Written by Kerri Newcomer

“What if you were stranded on an island and you had to eat animals to survive?”

“What if a chicken just ran up to you, laid an egg, then ran off? Would you be okay with eating the egg?”

“What if there was a cow that really needed to be milked? It would hurt the cow to not milk it. Would you drink milk then?”

If you’re a vegan, you’re likely to have been asked a question like this at some point in your life. When I first adopted a vegan lifestyle, I seemed to get several questions like these per day. Usually, they were fairly easy to answer: I would eat whatever the animals eat. I wouldn’t eat the egg. I would do what I could to help the cow, but still not drink the milk.

Over time, though, it can become annoying and tiresome to answer. Maybe it’s because of the absurdity of the scenarios these questions are constructed around, or maybe it’s because they are desperate to find a situation where the consumption of animal products is unquestionably okay. Either way, it’s always a good idea to avoid being outwardly frustrated when faced with these questions.

While it’s possible that the person asking you this may be trying to mess with you, it is also very possible that they are genuinely curious about the specifics of being vegan.

I’ve found that the best way to handle these questions is to recognize that all of these implausible situations ultimately have the same underlying question: “Is there any situation where you would eat meat or animal products?” or in other words, “How far does this ‘vegan’ thing really go?”

Depending on the context, this can sometimes seem mean spirited. These questions are designed to find a loophole or gap in ethical and moral beliefs. Essentially, they’re trying to ‘break the vegan.’

Instead of getting defensive, annoyed, or entertaining the ridiculous situation specific to the question, try to calmly answer that underlying question. The response I typically give is:

No. I would not eat or drink animal products under any feasible situation because I am morally against the exploitation of animals and I do not want to consume animal products.

Connecting to your ethical or other “why” helps reinforce your own personal answer to questions about how far your veganism goes. Find what your personal answer to that question might be and practice being confident in speaking it. This should hopefully provide an answer to any question in the “What if…” style.

And if you find yourself in the position of being asked a question like this by someone, consider whether or not it’s a situation where you might feel comfortable inviting the person to join you for a plant-based meal or activity. A little bit of conversation and community can go a long way in creating more understanding in friends and family about why living your lifestyle is important to you.

If you are someone, currently plant-based or not, who has asked this type of question in the past, don’t worry. It may have been a frustrating ask but it’s in the past. In the future, though, if you’re really wondering about the limits of someone’s lifestyle choices, just cut to the chase and ask, “Is there a situation where you would eat meat or animal products?” and they’ll tell you. No further questions needed.

Volunteer Shoutout: More from Volunteers

Whether you’ve been involved with one program or event or many, thank you for sharing your time and passion with the animal rights, plant-based movement!

This week’s Volunteer Shoutout features a few more stories from volunteers about their CAA experience. We’re grateful for the TLC they’ve put into growing and strengthening our community.

Get Involved

Subscribe to our weekly update:



Veg Resources

Upcoming Events

Friday, September 20, 2019 - Sunday, October 20, 2019

Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge 2019

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Twin Cities Veg Fest Data Entry Party!

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Video Outreach

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Introduction to Plant-Based Eating

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Vegan Food Giveaway