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Mentoring youth in the spirit of plant-based living
Cookie Cart is a youth employment program in the Twin Cities that provides teens 15 to 18 years old with meaningful work, life, and leadership skills through paid work experience and training. Work experiences have typically happened in Cookie Cart’s community bakery, however, this year’s stay-at-home requirements meant that youth have been working mostly virtually. In this time of distance learning, the organization remains committed to providing work experiences for their students, and CAA has played a vital role in providing those experiences.
After COVID hit, youth told Cookie Cart leaders that they wanted to spend the summer focusing on health and wellness skills. Tamuno Imbu, CAA’s community organizer, reached out to partner with them. Tamuno provided online plant-based cooking courses (and free ingredients for youth to participate), trauma response support in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, and a broader context to plant-based eating through an online farm sanctuary tour and screening of the movie The Invisible Vegan, which focuses on veganism in the African-American community.
In the course of this work, Tamuno met with youth online twice a week to coach outreach skills and identity-building, while Cookie Cart program educators taught customer service skills, interpersonal skills, and critical thinking. Both Tamuno Imbu and Laura Matanah from CAA mentored youth working at the Camden Farmers Market to be in community and find their voice in an in-person, outreach setting. CAA volunteer, Yosan Worota, joined Tamuno to facilitate conversations on social media marketing strategies. Youth have been paid by Cookie Cart for their participation in all of these classes and activities.
As you can imagine, the youth we engaged through this partnership are extremely curious and anxious about what the future holds for them. CAA is excited to develop a partnership that will allow these young people to learn about the world of animal advocacy and explore what it means to have a plant-based lifestyle.
More recently, CAA partnered with Cookie Cart to create a new, 100% plant-based cookie, and we’ve been teaching youth about Marketing and Sales as part of the development of this new menu item. After multiple flavor considerations, a sprinkle cookie was tried and tested. We featured the Vegan Sprinkle Cookie at the Camden Farmers Market and the Northeast Farmers Market in Minneapolis and are currently working on keeping it in their cookie lineup.
Minneapolis-based Root to Rise Kitchen impressed voters and earned top honors in this year’s challenge.
Chef and founder of Root to Rise Kitchen, Heather Klein, is the official Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge winner. Heather was awarded a $250 cash prize and trophy, presented at a special awards ceremony at Camden Farmers Market on September 12.
To create her award-winning “wingz,” Heather wraps marinated jackfruit in rice paper, fries them in avocado oil, and serves them on a stick. They’re paired with sweet coconut jade pearl rice, Thai basil-marinated vegetables, and mango/pineapple salsa. You can find Root to Rise’s Jackfruit BBQ Wingz at the Northeast Minneapolis Farmers Market.
Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge diners gushed about the flavor, creativity and presentation of the plant-based wings. Some of the comments that came in:
- “Heather’s food is consistently delicious.”
- “So amazing….no words.”
- “Legit the best thing I’ve had in a while.”
Runners up included Namaste Cafe, the double-dish winner whose two dishes scored second and third, and Reverie, who was the featured classic winner. These were awarded based on diner votes.
The Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge encouraged area chefs to offer plant-based dishes at their restaurants throughout the month of August, and diners had the opportunity to cast online votes for their favorite dish, Additional awards were given based on diner comments and committee members’ experiences at the restaurants. Throughout the metro area, 12 dining establishments at 16 locations, each with takeout and delivery available, took part:
- Namaste Café, Hennepin in Uptown | Double-Dish Winner: 2nd and 3rd Place for their two dishes, Chiya Chili Potatoes and Raw Jackfruit & Bamboo Shoot Curry
- Reverie, South Minneapolis, Powderhorn | Winner: Featured Classic
- The Naughty Greek, 2 locations in St. Paul | Winner: Outstanding Handheld Dish
- Avocadish, Dinkytown avocado bar | Winner: Magnificent Medley Dish
- Weinery, Cedar-Riverside | Winner: Best Kept Secret
- Parkway Pizza, 4 metro locations | Winner: Outstanding Use of Local Ingredients
- Shish, Grand Ave in St Paul | Winner: Sophisticated Spicy Dish
- PLNT BSD (Plant Based Bowls), Downtown White Bear Lake | Winner: Nutritiously Dense Decadence
- Tiny Diner, E 38th St/11th Ave, Minneapolis | Winner: Fresh and Flavorful Dish
- Book Club, Penn Ave, South Minneapolis | Winner: Fabulously Filling Dish
- Heather’s, 52nd St/Chicago Ave, Minneapolis | Winner: Remarkably Colorful Dish
- Red Wagon Pizza, 54th St/Penn Ave, Minneapolis | Winner: Brilliant Bean Fusion
The 2020 Twin Cities Vegan Chef Challenge was the biggest challenge yet, garnering a lot of public attention. Here’s a look at the numbers:
- 337 diners voted this year.
- 101 posts were shared on Instagram and Facebook.
- 600+ weekly engagements on social media.
- The challenge was covered by 17 media outlets, including 3 network news channels.
Read about her start with CAA, all the ways she has helped out, and what keeps her going.
How did you get involved with CAA?
I got involved with CAA after moving back to Minnesota (my home state) following many years on the East Coast. I was a new vegan and I wanted to get connected with the vegan community in the Twin Cities, so I signed up to volunteer at Twin Cities Veg Fest. From there, I learned about CAA’s Bridges of Respect humane education program and began helping out with classroom visits and social media.
What does your volunteer work entail?
While my volunteer roles with Twin Cities Veg Fest have been varied—everything from zero waste to transportation!—I’m currently the social media coordinator for Twin Cities Veg Fest and for Bridges of Respect. This year, social media has been especially important because it’s one of the only ways we have of connecting with people. Twin Cities Veg Fest would have been happening this month and it’s hard not to gather, but CAA has been working on other initiatives like “Veg Up the Market” with Camden Farmers Market and online cooking classes with Tamuno Imbu. Part of my job is making sure these events are promoted to the Twin Cities Veg Fest community and beyond.
What do you love most about volunteering?
It’s wonderful to connect with other veg-friendly people, and I love being part of an organization that is working to make a better world for animals everywhere. Plus, volunteering with CAA means you always have connections to amazing food!
When you’re not working on CAA activities, what do you like to do?
I’m a piano instructor and writer in St. Paul. I write for animal rights as a fellow with Sentient Media, and as a creative writer I write everything from fiction to screenplays. When I’m not teaching music or writing stories, I’m usually reading a book or taking my diva cat, Ava Gardner, for a walk.
What advice would you give to new vegans?
Stay true to yourself and your values. Our society is designed to encourage you to not be vegan, and sometimes it can feel difficult to stick with what you’re doing—especially if the people around you aren’t understanding or aren’t vegan themselves. Talking with other vegans and connecting with animals can be validating when you need some extra support. (Luckily, we have a few great farm sanctuaries around like Spring Farm Sanctuary, SoulSpace, and Farmaste!) Above all, with yourself as much as with others, be patient and be kind.
October’s recipes are here! This month, we’re cracking open Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s 2013 classic cookbook, Isa Does It. Start your oven and ready your chopping board…you’re in for some hearty and delicious dishes.
From the publisher: In Isa Does It, the beloved cookbook author shares 150 new recipes to make weeknight cooking a snap. Mouthwatering recipes like Sweet Potato Red Curry with Rice and Purple Kale, Bistro Beet Burgers, and Summer Seitan Saute with Cilantro and Lime illustrate how simple and satisfying meat-free food can be.
The recipes are supermarket friendly and respect how busy most readers are. From skilled vegan chefs, to those new to the vegan pantry, or just cooks looking for some fresh ideas, Isa’s unfussy recipes and quirky commentary will make everyone’s time in the kitchen fun and productive.
You can download this month’s recipes here.
Isa Does It, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. New York: Little, Brown and Company. 2013.
- Babushka Borscht, page 41
- Quinoa Caesar Salad, page 61
- Tempeh Meatballs & Spaghetti, page 119
- Banana Berry Scones, page 267
- Red-Hot BLTs, page 96
- Roasty Soba Bowl, page 192
- Sesame Tofu, page 239
Vegan Recipe Club meets Tuesday, October 20, on Zoom.
September’s Recipes are here! This month, we’re exploring recipes from Bryant Terry’s latest cookbook Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes.
From the Publisher: Food justice activist and author Bryant Terry breaks down the fundamentals of plant-based cooking in Vegetable Kingdom, showing you how to make delicious meals from popular vegetables, grains, and legumes. Recipes like Dirty Cauliflower, Barbecued Carrots with Slow-Cooked White Beans, Millet Roux Mushroom Gumbo, and Citrus & Garlic-Herb-Braised Fennel are enticing enough without meat substitutes, instead relying on fresh ingredients, vibrant spices, and clever techniques to build flavor and texture.
The book is organized by ingredient, making it easy to create simple dishes or showstopping meals based on what’s fresh at the market. Bryant also covers the basics of vegan cooking, explaining the fundamentals of assembling flavorful salads, cooking filling soups and stews, and making tasty grains and legumes. With beautiful imagery and classic design, Vegetable Kingdom is an invaluable tool for plant-based cooking today.
You can download this month’s recipes here.
Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes by Bryant Terry. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2020.
- Caramelized Leek and Seared Mushroom Toast, page 57
- Roasted Sweet Plantains, Pecan, and Millet Salad, page 150
- Smashed Peas and Creamy Cauliflower, page 28
- Roasted Sweet Potato and Asparagus Po’boy, page 75
- Grilled Spring Onions with Lemon-Thyme oil, page 60
This summer, Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA) announced the hiring of a new Communications Coordinator, and now we are excited to introduce you to Sandy Hitchin!
For my job, I travel to Guatemala a few times per year. I’m often struck by the visibility of animal suffering there. I see cow carcasses hanging off the side of a truck barreling down the road. I see pigs tied up in the back of live transport trucks. I see street dogs, missing large swaths of fur from mange, limping along the side of the road.
It’s not that this immense animal suffering doesn’t happen in the US. It’s that we make it less visible.
Let’s continue taking a closer look at some of the #tcveganchef restaurants and their amazing dishes! From burritos to bowls and house-made tomato jam, this week’s restaurant roundup features more of the incredible dishes created by our Vegan Chef Challengers that you can try and rate!