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I recently interviewed vegan runner Aaron Zellhoefer about his experience competing in the Ragnar Relay Race with an all-vegan team on May 8 and 9, 2015. Their success goes to show how a compassionate, plant-based diet can fuel top-notch athletes.
JL: Congratulations on winning the Ragnar Relay race! Is it true that your team of vegan runners took first place?
AZ: Out of 526 teams, our team, the Strong Hearts Vegan Power (SHVP) A Team came in 4th place. In our coed division, there were 332 teams, and we came in 1st place.
JL: Tell us more about the race. Where is it and what’s the course like?
AZ: Ragnar Relay is an overnight running event for teams of 6 or 12 runners. There are 15 courses spread across the United States, and each of them is around 200 miles long. Our team ran the Cape Cod course, which is incredibly beautiful. We started in Hull, Massachusetts and ended in Provincetown. We ran through very quaint towns that date back to the early 1600’s and still resemble that time period.
JL: How was your team formed?
AZ: A call was put out on Facebook for vegan runners. SHVP has done two previous Ragnar races, but they really wanted to make a mark this time. There was so much interest that we were able to sign up 36 vegan runners and make three teams. Each team had two drivers, so there were a total of 42 of us. We were all vegan. Because we had so many runners, the team captains decided to put together a competitive team. Hence, the SHVP A Team was formed. We had some really amazing runners. I felt intimidated by the level of strength on the team. Two of our team members, Scott Spitz and Micah Risk, had been on the cover of Runner’s World Magazine in the months leading up to the race. We also had our strongest runner, Laura Kline. Laura is soft-spoken and kind, the sort of person who does not generally make her presence known. Yet she is a beast on the race course; representing the United States, Laura won the gold for her age bracket in the International Duathalon Competition in Australia. She averaged six-minute miles.
JL: Wow, sounds like an powerful team. Plus, they had you! How do you train for an athletic event like this? What do you eat to help support your stamina and strength?
AZ: I have always trained by trying to do as many miles as possible before a race. I think most runners will agree that miles matter most. Then, there is recovery from those miles. The night before the race, the Boston Vegetarian Society hosted a talk with Matt Ruscigno, a dietitian and nutritionist. Matt talked about the health benefits associated with vegan running. His main point was that there is not one specific food that vegan runners should eat. He said that all you should be doing is eating a variety of healthy vegan foods and that the rest will follow.
JL: When and why did you go vegan?
AZ: I went vegan in December of 1997. I was involved in the punk rock movement, and, despite the yelling and screaming, there were a lot of messages in the songs. It was great to go to punk rock shows and see so much activism. Environmentalists, feminists, wobblies (workers rights activists), and animal rights activists would go to shows and share information about issues of concern. I was already vegetarian and read up on why someone should go vegan. I saw it as a natural continuation of my reasons to be vegetarian. The reasons were spot-on for the environment, human rights, health, and especially animal welfare and animal rights.
JL: How did you get into running?
AZ: I got into running my freshman year of high school. I enjoyed nothing more than getting out on a running trail and leaving all of my worries behind. I enjoyed the natural beauty of my surroundings. It would make me appreciate what I have.
JL: What was the race like for you? How much of it did you run?
AZ: Each runner had three legs to run. I ended up running a fourth leg for a teammate who was not feeling well. I ended up running 16 miles at roughly a 6:30 pace. I have another Ragnar race in Utah coming up. This will be my eighth 200-mile relay race. I think I’ve been able to do these races so well partly because of healthy eating and training.
JL: What was it like winning the race with your team?
AL: The SHVP A Team all wore shirts that read “Vegan for health, the environment, but most importantly, for the animals. VEGAN POWER!” We wanted to get the name out there and we did. We got a lot of chuckles when we showed up. But, after some of the other runners realized how well we were doing, those chuckles turned into conversations. The race was a 189.3 mile race. Our team did it in 21:54:46. That’s a 6:56 pace for almost 200 miles. It was a fantastic time, and we got the word about veganism far and wide.
We celebrated 17 years of advocating for farmed animals last Saturday night at our Annual Banquet. For the first time ever, we held the event at the Wellstone Center in St. Paul. Attendees enjoyed a gourmet vegan dinner, drinks, dessert, silent auction, and a presentation. In addition, they had the chance to spend an evening with other members of our compassionate community. Good times!
Thanks to all of our volunteers who helped in various capacities throughout the evening. Special thanks to volunteer Jared Rolsky, our head chef, who created the menu and supervised food preparation. Also, thanks to all of our food donors: John Thompson, Ben Kutscheid, Joan Rolsky, Betsy Born, EG Nelson, Muddy Paws Cheesecake, Peace Coffee, and Fairview Wine & Spirits. And thanks to everyone who donated good and services to be sold in our silent auction. We raised $1,590 with your contributions and received a $1,000 matching contribution for that. We extend our gratitude to The Herbivorous Butcher, who sponsored the event and supplied a magnificent main dish for the dinner.
Lastly, thanks to all who attended the event and support our work with your contributions and participation. We hope you had a wonderful time and look forward to seeing you at more events in the year to come.
Here’s a slideshow of photographs taken by volunteer Kealy Porter at the banquet. Enjoy!
When I first started on my plant-based journey, my focus was on my health and wellness. In the back of my mind I knew that by eating a vegan diet I would also be helping the animals and the environment, but it wasn’t the driving force for my lifestyle change. However, after I saw a friend’s post about a goat she met at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY, I realized that the impact of my changes had a much farther reach than my own dinner plate.
That’s why when the opportunity came to read the Farm Sanctuary founder’s new book, I was ecstatic. The book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day, is much more than just a cookbook or memoir – it’s a practical guide to living a more compassionate life.
One of the things that endeared me most to this book was the detailed history and journey of Gene and Farm Sanctuary and the personal stories from various plant-based people scattered through the book. Reading about his journey to creating Farm Sanctuary is a reminder that we all start somewhere and that one step leads to the next.
His story about how Farm Sanctuary began with him and a friend keeping some rescued animals in a backyard is a testament to how small actions can be a catalyst for greater things. I also enjoyed the anecdotes about the animals that some of the employees of Farm Sanctuary provided throughout the book.
Beyond the personal stories, the main premise of this book is what Gene calls the Five Tenets of Farm Sanctuary Living. These tenets include things such as eating plants for the earth, eating plants for your health, and eating mindfully.
The tenets are straightforward and each section is written in such a way that is easily digestible and actionable. Baur lays out simple steps you can take to successfully follow each tenet, and with sections such as how to eat vegan on the cheap and ‘10 Small Steps’ guide, he makes the entire lifestyle incredibly approachable.
The second half of this book is dedicated to a variety of vegan recipes. The recipes were provided by a number of well-known plant-based chef and celebrities including the owners of The Vedge restaurant, Farm Sanctuary employees, and Biz Stone (founder of Twitter).
While some of the recipes are a little too reliant on pre-packaged vegan foods for my taste, they are accessible for someone who is just transitioning to a plant-based diet. Aside from those few recipes, the majority of them are some of the most inventive I’ve seen.
I personally was able to whip up several of the recipes, and I enjoyed each one immensely. From the Spring Cioppino, which is filled to the brim with fresh veggies, to the Walnut and Date Cookies, which have just the right amount of crunch and sweetness, the recipes are easy to follow and delicious.
I would consider this book an essential guide for anyone beginning on their journey toward a more compassionate lifestyle, as well as an asset to any long-time vegan’s library. While changing our diets may be the most challenging part of the journey, it is only one piece of the happy and healthy life puzzle – this book reminds us why living compassionately is so important, and it gives us the tools to do so.
Gene Baur will be signing copies of his book on Wednesday, May 20 at Common Good Books in St. Paul. Visit the event page for more details.
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book free of charge, however, all opinions expressed are my own.
Mercy for Animals recently initiated a #NoAgGag campaign designed to bring attention to the laws proposed in various states that would ban documentation of the routine cruelty at factory farms and slaughterhouses.
In Minnesota, an ag-gag bill was proposed in 2011 that would ban photos and videos at livestock facilities. Fortunately, the bill did not move forward. Yet, ag-gag laws have been passed in four other states, and there’s currently one on the verge of being passed in North Carolina, a state with many factory farms.
The videos obtained through harrowing undercover investigations make us aware of the horrific conditions on factory farms. Through raising awareness in this way, more people are compelled to consider their food choices and move towards a plant-based diet. The meat industry sees this trend, and their business is hurting. Rather than addressing the animals abuses, they are putting energy into silencing whistleblowers by passing these unconstitutional laws.
As part of the MFA campaign, people are sharing photos of themselves with the hashtag #NoAgGag. At our most recent Compassionate Action for Animals potluck, a bunch of us decided to participate in the campaign with a NoAgGag photo shoot. You can see a collage of the photos on this page and all of the individual photos on Flickr. Through sharing these images with the hashtag #NoAgGag, we hope to raise awareness for this critical issue, which affects animal welfare, food safety, workers’ rights, and the environment.
We believe that it’s our constitutional right to know where our food comes from and that it’s important for consumers to be aware of what life is like for animals on factory farms. Without these videos, the meat industry cannot be held accountable for the abuses they routinely inflict.
Chipotle Mexican Grill is the preferred fast food joint for many a vegan and vegetarian. I’ve long been a fan of their simple vegetarian burrito, with its cilantro rice, black beans, and salsa options. And don’t forget the guacamole! Even better: their vegetarian option has been available not only as a burrito, but also as a burrito bowl, tacos, or salad. Then, the Chipotle people were thoughtful enough to make their pinto beans vegetarian. (They had been previously cooked with pork.) Thanks, Chipotle!
In the past year, Chipotle has introduced yet another vegan option: Sofritas, a savory tofu crumble that can also be used as a meat alternative in their burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, or salads. Steve Ells, Chipotle founder, chairman and co-CEO has said that “in creating the recipe for Sofritas, we wanted to produce something that would appeal to vegetarian and vegan customers, but that was delicious enough to have crossover appeal as well.” I think they’ve succeeded.
Sofritas is a delicious way to replace the meat in your Chipotle meal while still getting that satisfying texture and protein boost. Chipotle’s tofu supplier, Hodo Soy, is known as an industry leader for its organic, non-GMO tofu and artisanal methods of production. In case you didn’t know, tofu is a sponge for flavor, and Chipotle has taken advantage of that by infusing their tofu with a mouthwatering blend of salt and spice. I enjoy how it’s just spicy enough to be flavorful, but not overwhelmingly hot. If you want to know how Sofritas are made, check out this cool infographic.
As with all of Chipotle’s meal options, you can pick and choose your add-ons. Take note: the guacamole that comes free with the regular vegetarian burrito costs extra with Sofritas. I do recommend it, though. That guac helps to balance the flavors and serves as a satisfying alternative to cheese or sour cream. (Who needs cheese and sour cream when you have avocados?)
I’ve enjoyed Chipotle since they started cropping up in the Twin Cities. They offer a fast, delicious, nutritious, and inexpensive vegan meal. I’m glad to see that they are responding to the trend towards plant-based eating. It’s another sign that our movement is thriving. Give Sofritas a try today if you haven’t already!
On Thursday, April 30, hundreds of restaurants are participating in the 21st annual Dining Out for Life event in Minnesota. When you dine at these restaurants on that day, a portion of the proceeds will benefit The Aliveness Project, an organization that serves HIV-positive Minnesotans with a comprehensive array of programs.
Here’s a list of my favorite veg-friendly restaurants that are participating. I’ve noted what percentage of proceeds will be donated to the Aliveness Project, which mealtimes apply, and what the restaurants have to offer.
In one fell swoop, you can support not only those people in Minnesota living with HIV, but you can also have an excellent vegan or vegetarian meal. Now, that’s what I call dining out for life!
- Pizza Luce
- Lunch or dinner (dine in only)
- Vegan pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and more
- The Wedge Table
- Breakfast, lunch, or dinner
- Cooperative cafe and market with lots of vegan options
- Ginger Hop
- Lunch or dinner
- Asian cuisine in swanky setting
- Sen Yai Sen Lek
- Lunch or dinner
- Thai cuisine with large portions
- Birchwood Cafe
- Fresh food with down-home appeal
- May Day Cafe
- Breakfast or Lunch
- Cozy cafe with awesome vegan scones, cookies, burritos, and more
- Galactic Pizza
- Lunch or Dinner
- Vegan pizza and nondairy cheesecake
- Hard Times Cafe
- Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner
- Collectively owned diner with lots of vegan comfort food
- Namaste Cafe
- Indian and Nepalese cuisine with excellent soy chai
You can follow the links to read more about these restaurants on VegGuide, our community-maintained guide to veg-friendly restaurants. Of the 225 restaurants participating in Dining Out for Life in Minnesota, there are bound to be others with great vegan options. These are just my personal favorites. Happy dining!
Do you ever wonder how to make a good chocolate chip cookie without using butter? And how do you get that cake to be just the right amount of moist but still light and fluffy without using eggs? And what about vegan whipped cream? Is there such a thing?
Of course, all of your favorite baked goods can be made vegan with just a little know-how. And making them vegan doesn’t mean they have to be low fat, whole grain, and agave-sweetened. They can be just as decadent as you want them to be.
CAA volunteer and baking aficionado EG Nelson recommends the following resources for all your vegan baking needs:
- Veganbaking.net has everything you need to know about vegan baking, including recipes, FAQs, forums, and more.
- The Post Punk Kitchen features lots of recipes in addition to cookbook superstar Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s blog, which has lots of great info on baking.
- PETA Vegan Baking Cheat Sheet is great guide on how and when to use different replacements for various animal ingredients in baking.
- Fran Costigan’s Vegan Baking Guide features the vegan baking recommendations of Fran Costigan, the professor for the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Vegan Baking Bootcamp. She was trained as a traditional pastry chef, later became vegan, and has since published various vegan dessert cookbooks.
- Gluten-Free Goddess offers tips for replacing both animal ingredients and gluten in baked goods.
For more tips from EG, check out her blog, Hay Gurl Hay Cafe.
On Monday, April 6, we held our first-ever Town Hall meeting. Twenty people came to share their thoughts and feedback about our work. We greatly appreciate their time and input.
We talked about CAA’s existing programs, asked attendees to pick the programs they thought were most important, and asked them provide us with anonymous feedback on what we could do better. We also had an open discussion on CAA’s work and future plans.
The programs that attendees thought were most important were community-building events, Bridges of Respect, Twin Cities Veg Fest, volunteer training, and research. We also had a number of suggestions for new activities and things we could do better. Several people were interested in having more social events that weren’t entirely food-focused, such as athletic outings and game nights.
We also talked about the barriers to reaching out to a broader group of people. How can we do better at reaching out to people from more diverse economic and racial backgrounds than the bulk of our current volunteers and supporters?
There was a lot of other feedback and discussion, all of which will be shared with our Board of Directors.
Of course, the best way to improve what we’re doing is by helping us do it. Do you have an idea for a new program or campaign, or thoughts on how to improve what we’re doing? We’re always excited to support new volunteer leaders. Check out our list of volunteer opportunities and fill out our volunteer form today!
Twin Cities Veg Living
The CAA Magazine
Have you heard? CAA has created a glossy, full-color 12-page magazine called Twin Cities Veg Living. It includes an overview of our key programs along with both inspirational and practical information to support those making the shift to more compassionate eating. The content is specific to the Twin Cities and shows that our local community is quite veg-friendly.
If you haven’t seen the magazine yet, you can find it at our tabling events throughout the year or read it online.
We had many contributors who wrote articles, took photographs, and edited the various drafts. We also had the graphic design expertise of Nick Coughlin to give this magazine its fresh, fun look. We offer huge thanks to all of these contributors who were more than willing to offer their time and talent free of charge. Their enthusiasm shows; it’s a vibrant, colorful collection of articles that very much reflects how our movement is thriving.
Here are some highlights:
- An article about Nikki, a pig who was rescued from a factory farm
- A profile of two vegan businesses in the Twin Cities: Herbivorous Butcher and Comfort Candy
- A review of four different veg-friendly restaurants in the Twin Cities by Everyday Tastiness
- An overview of plant-based nutrition by Kristina DeMuth, RD
- A recipe from Mistress Ginger Cooks!
To see the complete list of contents and contributors, check out our recent blog post about the magazine.
In addition to sharing the magazine at local events throughout the year, we’ll bring it with us to Washington D.C. for the Animal Rights National Conference in July. Giving the magazine to other attendees of the conference, we’ll be able to share our local successes with the global community and get our name out there.
If you can’t wait until the next CAA event to grab a copy of the magazine, feel free to stop by the CAA Community Space at 2100 1st Avenue S in Minneapolis. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a time to pick one up. Be sure to grab an extra copy to share with a friend.
By the way, our Annual Banquet is just around the corner. Join us on Saturday, May 16 and help us celebrate 17 years of CAA. Tickets for the gourmet dinner have already sold out, but there’s still room at reception starting at 7:30pm. This reception is only $10 and includes dessert, drinks, a short presentation, and a silent auction. Reserve your spot today and join us for the party!
Communications & Events Coordinator
It’s true! We’ve put together our very own magazine called Twin Cities Veg Living. We hope that this issue will be the first of many. If you haven’t seen the magazine yet, you can find it at our tabling events throughout the year or read it online as a downloadable PDF.
The magazine serves a couple different purposes. It’s a way for us to share who we are and what we do. You’ll find that our campaigns, programs, values, and mission are represented in its contents. Along with that, the magazine is a useful resource for those moving towards a plant-based diet. The contents include:
- An article about Nikki, a pig who was rescued from a factory farm
- A profile of two vegan businesses in the Twin Cities: Herbivorous Butcher and Comfort Candy
- A glimpse of Twin Cities Veg Fest
- An interview with volunteer Elise Armani, including information about our Meatless Monday campaign
- A review of four different veg-friendly restaurants in the Twin Cities
- An overview of plant-based nutrition
- A recipe from Mistress Ginger Cooks!