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CAA Supports #NoAgGag!

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.

Take action today! Sign the petition to urge the North Carolina governor to veto this unconstitutional bill and share our #NoAgGag Facebook post.

photos by Brooke Reynolds
photos by Brooke Reynolds

 

Sofritas: The New Vegan Option at Chipotle

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?)SofritasTacos

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!

Veg-Friendly Dining Out for Life

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
    • 35%
    • Lunch or dinner (dine in only)
    • Vegan pizza, sandwiches, pasta, and more
  • The Wedge Table
    • 35%
    • Breakfast, lunch, or dinner
    • Cooperative cafe and market with lots of vegan options
  • Ginger Hop
    • 20-24%
    • Lunch or dinner
    • Asian cuisine in swanky setting
  • Sen Yai Sen Lek
    • 20-24%
    • Lunch or dinner
    • Thai cuisine with large portions
  • Birchwood Cafe
    • 35%
    • Dinner
    • Fresh food with down-home appeal
  • May Day Cafe
    • 25-34%
    • Breakfast or Lunch
    • Cozy cafe with awesome vegan scones, cookies, burritos, and more
  • Galactic Pizza
    • 20-24%
    • Lunch or Dinner
    • Vegan pizza and nondairy cheesecake
  • Hard Times Cafe
    • 20-24%
    • Breakfast, Lunch, or Dinner
    • Collectively owned diner with lots of vegan comfort food
  • Namaste Cafe
    • 20-24%
    • Dinner
    • 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!

 

 

 

Tips for Vegan Baking

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.

Town Hall Meeting Summary

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!

Compassionate Times: April, 2015

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:

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 justin@exploreveg.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!

Best wishes,

Justin Leaf

Communications & Events Coordinator

CAA has published a magazine!

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!

Continue reading

Join the Twin Cities Veg Fest Planning Committee!

Plans for Twin Cities Veg Fest 2015 are already underway. The committee that’s organizing the festival is looking for three additional volunteers for the roles of Exhibitor Logistics Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, and Media Outreach Coordinator. Are you interested?

You could be a part of the team that makes Twin Cities Veg Fest possible! Each year, this one-day event draws more than 2,300 people and shows them a variety of ways to live more compassionately. Help make this year’s festival bigger and better than ever.

The Exhibitor Logistics Coordinator will:

  • Make sure exhibitors provide any materials needed, including text and logos, food permits, payment. This will often require multiple interactions and reminders.
  • Create clear exhibitor guidelines and make sure that exhibitors are aware of them.
  • Coordinate shipping with exhibitors as needed.
  • Write clear exhibitor instructions, including where and when to unload and load, where to set up, and how many attendees to expect.
  • Plan the exhibitor hall layout to make sure that all exhibitors get what they need, including the right number of tables and access to electrical outlets.
  • Be the primary point person for exhibitors on the day of the event.

Some of delegate the tasks included in exhibitor logistics could be delegated to other volunteers, but you’d be responsible for overseeing this aspect of the festival.

You will be most busy in the two months before the festival, as well as on the day of the festival.

The Volunteer Coordinator will:

  • Determine how many volunteers are needed for every aspect of the festival, including pre-event, day-of, and post-event tasks.
  • Write detailed descriptions for each position.
  • Create a complete schedule for all volunteer shifts, noting where shift leaders are needed and determining how many volunteers are needed for each position.
  • Recruit and schedule volunteer leaders. This will require individual emails and phone calls.
  • Arrange for each volunteer leader to receive whatever training required. This training can be conducted over the phone or in person meeting. The coordinator or another committee member will reviews the position details with the volunteer leader.
  • Recruit volunteers for all positions. This will require mass emails, social media posts, and possibly individual emails and phone calls.
  • Schedule interested volunteers based on their availability, skills, and preferred positions.
  • On the day of the festival, check in with volunteers as they arrive, direct them to their volunteer leader, and give them a shirt (if appropriate). Other committee members can help with this as well.

The Volunteer Coordinator should be a friendly, well-organized person who is comfortable with reaching out to people one-on-one. You should be good at working with others on the committee to compile volunteer instructions. You will also need to have good communication skills to effectively train volunteer leaders and direct volunteers as they arrive.

Some of delegate the tasks included in volunteer coordination could be delegated to other volunteers, but you’d be responsible for overseeing this aspect of the festival.

Your workload ramps up in the last two to three months before the festival, as it’s not realistic to recruit volunteers more than four to six weeks out.

The Media Outreach Coordinator will:

  • Collect contact info for local media and relevant blogs.
  • Write and distribute press releases to all relevant media.
  • Get the event listed in local calendars, both online and in print.
  • Be the first contact person for the media. Send requests for interviews to other committee members as appropriate.

The Media Outreach Coordinator must have excellent writing skills and creative ideas for getting media attention. You must also be good at doing online research to find local media outlets.

You will be most busy in the few months preceding the festival, since it’s not effective to do media outreach too far in advance. However, research for this position should start at least six months before the festival.

If you’d like to be a part of the Twin Cities Veg Fest Planning Committee or have further questions about these roles, please contact Unny Nambudiripad at unny@exploreveg.org.

Cookbook Review: Vegan Pizza

Pizza: It’s the staple of every college kid’s diet and of every harried parent’s go-to meal plan. But when you make the decision to eat a plant-based diet, your delivery pizza options are greatly reduced. Julie Hasson looks to fill that void by bringing delicious vegan pizza straight to your kitchen with her cookbook, the aptly named Vegan Pizza: 50 Cheesy, Crispy, Healthy Recipes.

Vegan pizza may seem simple enough: homemade crust, tomato sauce, plus some toppings and maybe a little vegan cheese. But getting just the right combination of those ingredients can be the difference between an okay pizza and one that you’ll remember long after you’ve devoured the last bite. Julie’s book is what will get you there. Her easy-to-follow instructions and carefully-thought-out recipes give you all the tools you need to make crave-worthy vegan pizza right in your own kitchen.

The cookbook contains 50 unique recipes for vegan pizza, all of which look amazing. Muffuletta Pizza or Thai Peanut Pizza? What could be any better than that? The beginning of the book provides a list of common pizza staples to have in the pantry as well as five different crust recipes that will satisfy anyone you may be cooking for, including a gluten-free option. She also provides many tips and tricks for getting your vegan pizza to come out better than what you could get from delivery or a store.

The recipes are broken into eight sections, including several recipes dedicated to individual components: Dough and Crust, House-Made Meats, and Cheesy Sauces and Spreads. Once you have all of the pieces together, Julie dives into the good stuff – the pizzas! She starts off with the classics and gets more exotic as the book goes on, with global flavors and unique combos. And, of course, what would a book about pizza be without a few dessert pizza recipes?

My personal favorite recipe is the Valentine’s Pizza. It’s a straightforward recipe, like most in the book. However, Julie adds her own twist on things, which really takes this pizza to the next level. I love the suggestion of shaping your pizza into a heart, and the unique combination of sun-dried tomato, basil, arugula pesto, and red bell peppers gives it truly bold flavors. The bell pepper adds an interesting texture as well, which keeps things exciting as you make your way through the pie with your sweetheart.

While the photos are a bit sparse, I wouldn’t consider that a problem. After all, you can only shoot pizza from so many angles. Overall, the variety of combinations and user-friendly instructions make this cookbook one you’ll want to to have on hand at all times. With Julie’s help, you’ll be whipping up vegan pizza for your friends and family in no time, even if you’re a novice cook!

Meatless Monday Campaign Update

This past September, a group of us who are CAA volunteers and also students at the University of Minnesota started a campaign to get more meatless options in the University’s dining halls on Mondays. As the campaign coordinator, I’m reporting on the progress we’ve made toward reaching our goal.

Bringing the campaign to the University of Minnesota would have many benefits. Aside from this ultimate goal, the process of campaigning is also a powerful means of outreach. We are engaging students, faculty, alumni, University departments, student groups, and community members in a conversation about the effects of animals agriculture and the benefits of a Meatless Monday program.

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