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The 9th Annual Vegan Chili Cook-Off was a total blast! We gave the more than 300 folks in attendance a taste of compassionate living by way of vegan chili. See for yourself in the slideshow below.
Congratulations to our cook-off winners, Betsy Born and Edward Bosella. (Their recipes will be posted on our recipe archive soon!) And huge thanks to all of the contestants for providing amazing vegan eats for all to share. You really showed how easy, fun, and delicious vegan food can be.
Thanks also to the many volunteers who helped make this event a success. We couldn’t have done it without your support for planning, setting up, cleaning up, making extra chili, and more.
We’re also very grateful to all of our event sponsors, who generously provided their goods and services to help make this event a resounding success: Punk Rawk Labs, Tiny Footprint Coffee, The Herbivorous Butcher, Reverie Cafe + Bar, Crepe & Spoon, and The Sunshapes. Thank you!
Lastly, thanks 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 also hope you’ll join us for our Annual Banquet at the Blaisdell on Saturday, March 31. With a gourmet vegan dinner catered by Root to Rise, this is a vegan culinary experience not to be missed. Get your tickets today!
What better way to celebrate twenty years of advocating for animals than with some amazing animal-free food?
Join us at the Blaisdell on Saturday, March 31 for our Annual Banquet and enjoy a gourmet vegan dinner catered by Root to Rise. And since it’s CAA’s birthday party, there will also be cupcakes from Vegan East and dairy-free ice cream donated by Ben & Jerry’s South Minneapolis. Your taste buds won’t want to miss this!
Now let’s get more specific…
After mingling at the reception, enjoying elegant hors d’oeuvres and tantalizing drink, you’ll be seated for the sumptuous dinner. Here’s what Root to Rise is bringing to the table:
- Warm Jackfruit Salad
- Hominy Verde Soup
- Parsnip Potato Wedges and Garlic Sauce
- Butternut Squash and Cashew Lasagna or Spinach Artichoke Soufflé (your choice!)
Note that everything is vegan and everything but the optional soufflé is gluten-free.
If your mouth is already watering, then you’d better just reserve your tickets today. For this gourmet vegan dinner and reception (including three drink tickets), the cost is $75 per person. Not only do you get a one-of-a-kind culinary experience, but you also get to support Compassionate Action for Animals as we launch the next twenty years of advocating for animals.
The event will also include a silent auction with some very special items and an inspiring presentation including stories from CAA’s early days. And you get to enjoy a special evening with the compassionate community. Bring your friends and family. All are welcome!
We would love to see you there. Reserve your tickets today!
In honor of the 20th anniversary of Compassionate Action for Animals, we have a new visual brand identity. Super exciting!
The redesign process began last fall, led by designer Danami Maurice Champion. A team of CAA staff, board members, and volunteers gave feedback on design direction, and now we can share the end result: CAA’s new logo, colors, typography, and more. (Twin Cities Veg Fest and Bridges of Respect will each get new looks later this year. Stay tuned for that!)
Over the next six months you’ll see a gradual changeover in CAA’s visual materials, everything from our printed brochure to our social media to our website. Today, you get to feast your eyes on the overall plan, a bold new look that aims to reach a bigger spectrum of the Twin Cities community. You’ll also read about the ideas behind the design choices, starting with the attributes of our brand.
If you’ve tasted any of Vegan East’s decadent baked goods, you’ve probably wondered who in the world is the genius baker behind these heavenly treats. We have the inside scoop, revealing the mystery that is Vegan East and telling you all about their new brick-and-mortar location in White Bear Lake, opening this weekend.
Meet baker Sheila Nelson. She’s the culinary mastermind behind the awesome desserts. Her husband Reid Nelson handles the business side of things. Both Sheila and Reid went vegan about two years ago, inspired by a variety of documentaries that promote plant-based eating.
By that time, Sheila was already into baking. In fact, she had tried her hand at running a non-vegan bakery from her home. Then, once she’d gone veg, she had an impulse to veganize her baked goods. She read food blogs, experimented with different recipes, and then created her own formulas for fantastic cakes, icings, and more.
Not long after that, in 2016, Sheila and Reid heard about Twin Cities Veg Fest and were motivated to launch their new vegan bakery business at the annual festival that caters to thousands.
Twin Cities Veg Fest proved to be the ultimate catalyst, exceeding their expectations by selling out of all their goodies in a couple hours and giving them tons of exposure.
Sheila and Reid also credit The Herbivorous Butcher and Reverie Cafe + Bar for the exposure, as they gave Vegan East opportunities to host pop-up events in their spaces. Sheila says, “I’m not sure if I would have pushed myself to do pop-ups if it weren’t for them. So many people and events contributed to our success. I couldn’t have done it without all the social media support of all the vegan shops, bloggers, and our customers.”
Speaking of the customers, Vegan East has thrived as a home bakery for the past couple years, taking online orders and wowing customers every step of the way. Then, their success at the 2017 Twin Cities Veg Fest prompted them to think about opening their own storefront.
They found a space in downtown White Bear Lake that was perfect. It already had all the equipment necessary for their vegan bakery. (No need for an expensive and time-consuming build-out!)
In case you’ve never been to downtown White Bear Lake, you need to know how adorable it is, with antique shops, a record store, clothing boutiques, and more. Add a vegan bakery to the mix, and you’ve got the makings of a perfect little jaunt for those of us vegans who live in the heart of the metro.
And once you get there, what can you expect to find?
In the mornings, expect cinnamon rolls, muffins, quiche, a selection of loose leaf teas, and coffee. Then throughout the day, look forward to cupcakes, cakes, and cheesecake by the slice—all vegan! And Sheila is dreaming of making a nondairy crème brûlée. Be on the lookout for that.
Being in White Bear Lake, Sheila and Reid recognize the opportunity to open the eyes of omnivores to the wonders of vegan food, debunking the myth that it can’t be decadent. Oh, it can!
In that way, Sheila and Reid consider this vegan bakery to be their contribution to a vegan future.
So what’s in the future for Vegan East?
First of all, they have their grand-opening weekend on February 10 and 11, and you can expect the whole array of sweet treats with a fast-moving line. Also, the mayor of White Bear Lake will be there for a ribbon cutting!
Further down the road, they plan to add a light lunch menu. Also, Sheila makes an amazing vegan pho, so soon they’ll have “Pho Fridays.”
Long-term, they want to expand to other locations, and they’d love to host other vegan pop-ups in their new space as well, recognizing how their own pop-ups were so helpful to getting their business off the ground. They want to give back in that way, helping the veg community to thrive and continue growing with options for plant-based eating.
We look forward to all of the scrumptious ways that Vegan East will make a difference!
Vegan East is located inside the Avalon Mall at 2179 4th Street in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Join them for their grand opening, Saturday, February 10 from 9am to 6pm and Sunday, February 11 from 10am to 4pm. RSVP to the Facebook event page and learn more at veganeast.com.
The wait is over, Twin Cities. Fig + Farro has officially opened in Uptown!
Co-founders Michelle Courtright and Thomas Dambrine, along with creative director Ellen Hughes, are on a mission to serve globally-inspired, locally-sourced vegetarian (and vegan) food that is both delicious and reduces carbon footprints.
Michelle has a resume which includes co-founding both a design agency and co-working space. Thomas is the co-founder of Bean Sprouts cafe and most recently served as the Director of Social Enterprise at Appetite for Change. Their partnership is driven by a shared love for food, the environment, and reducing food waste. They want everyone to feel like a visit to Fig + Farro is like being with family or good friends. Their dishes are meant to be mixed, matched, and shared. Yes, you read that right: family-style veg food!
Taking over Figlio’s former spot, their opening fills a niche previously vacant: a sit-down, creative option for plant-forward dining. The decor is full of vintage accents and communal tables. There are no televisions to be found. Even their desserts and libations keep their mission in mind. They have a talented vegan pastry chef and will feature exclusively keg-based wines, which go a long way to reduce waste.
I had the privilege to attend their press event a few weeks back. Foolishly, I ate a snack before arriving without any idea of what to expect. Lots of food was served! Three hours later, after rolling myself out the front door and to my car, I had already decided I’d be back.
Everything I put in my mouth was either very tasty or downright delicious. Hummus and olives with a warm, toasted baguette welcomed me to the table. Then there was “Paan” to entice me. This flatbread creation is a cross between pita bread and naan and dusted with sumac. The parade of main dishes (my eyes got very wide) included vegan mashed potatoes with a gravy flight, vegan macaroni and cheese, glazed carrots with pearl onions, and roasted Brussels sprouts (that tasted magical and were cooked just right).
Fig + Farro will clearly have many fans in the veg community. But, they’ll also provide a welcoming place for omnivores to discover how truly delicious vegan food can be. This focus on the entire community has great potential to change hearts and minds, further reducing the suffering of farmed animals.
They would love to welcome you to the table!
Fig + Farro is located at 3001 Hennepin Avenue South in Uptown Minneapolis (inside Calhoun Square). Their grand opening was on Wednesday, January 24.
Exciting news! CAA has launched its new institutional food advocacy program, Wholesome Minnesota, in collaboration with The Humane Society of the United States – Minnesota.
Last Thursday, CAA and HSUS co-hosted the first training session for advocates who want to get involved with this new program that endeavors to bring more plant-based food options to places such as hospitals, schools, and places of worship. Through this program, we have the potential to spare thousands of animals through each cafeteria we reach.
Special guests at the training session included LeoLin Bowen and Karla Dumas of Forward Food, a program that does similar advocacy on a national level, working with hundreds of food service professionals from all industries to reduce the amount of animal products they serve.
Giving a glimpse of Wholesome Minnesota in action, CAA volunteer Julie Knopp talked about her experience working with Richfield Public Schools and gave concrete tips for getting started with this kind of outreach.
At one point in the evening, the more than thirty attendees each shared what institutions they are hoping to reach through the program. For some, it’s a school they are currently attending. For others, it’s their workplace. Others mentioned connecting with churches.
As noted by CAA Executive Director Laura Matanah, to hear the spectrum of ideas was exciting. And HSUS Executive Director Christine Coughlin remarked that these efforts to change institutions can lead to a significant transformation for people, animals, and the planet.
One attendee shared, “Now I feel like I have what I need to go out and do this.” Another said, “It was a powerful and practical session.”
Even if you couldn’t make the training, you can get involved today. Our Wholesome Minnesota Guide will take you through the process step by step. Contact program coordinator Julie Knopp at firstname.lastname@example.org to let her know you’re interested.
The next training will be Sunday, April 15 from 1:30 to 3:30pm. Register today!
Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero return with a 10th anniversary edition of their “ultimate vegan cookbook,” Veganomicon. The new edition contains more than 250 recipes, 25 of which are new. The recipes cover everything from snacks and brunch to baked goods and desserts making it a valuable go-to for anyone interested in exploring and celebrating a plant-based diet.
This comprehensive book is both accessible to beginning cooks while also offering more complex dishes for those of us who prefer a challenge. The introduction includes helpful information about basic vegan ingredients, kitchen equipment, and explanations of terminology and techniques. The rest of the book is divided into chapters covering offerings for every meal and occasion. Each recipe is coded with icons to help you easily find meals that are soy-free, gluten-free, low-fat, supermarket-friendly, or prepared in less than 45 minutes. The recipes themselves cover everything from simple side dishes to show stopping entrees.
But, how do they taste?
My wife and I spent a month trying a few recipes per week and then had a potluck party. We sent recipes to a bunch of our friends to really broaden our scope of the recipes in terms of execution and taste. We deliberately chose recipes that would meet various budgets and skill levels from throughout the book and pretty much enjoyed everything we tried. Some of our stand-out favorites among them all included Samosa Stuffed Baked Potatoes, Shredded Parsnip & Beet Salad with Pineapple Vinaigrette, Fresh Dill-Basmati Rice with Chard and Chickpeas, Broccoli-Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs, and the Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies.
We made the Chickpea Cutlets for Thanksgiving, and they were a huge hit served with the Mushroom Gravy. We also loved the Mac Daddy, Veganomicon’s take on mac and cheese, which is loaded with a heavy dose of nutritional yeast instead of cheese alternatives. In fact, you’ll find no processed food at all in any of their recipes. This is great for some of us but may be challenging to those who don’t have the time or skill level to prepare their own seitan, salsa, or mole sauce. That being said, most of the recipes that lay out extra steps for prep could easily be shortened and adapted by substituting a similar premade store-bought product.
As a newly vegan household, we really enjoyed exploring the variety of tasty dishes that Veganomicon offered. We liked the layout and appreciated its straightforward approach, all while encouraging us to try making our own seitan, vegan ricotta, and basic sauces. It would make a great addition to any cookbook library and help anyone wanting to explore or adopt a plant-based diet. Veganomicon, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook is available in hardcover or on Kindle.
Grab a copy and bon appetit!
Laura Thompson was a chef for over two decades before becoming a Unitarian Universalist Minister. She sees plant-based eating as spiritual practice.
This time of year, we often hear the story of the nativity, with the baby Jesus surrounded by a donkey, camel, and other animals. Unfortunately, farmed animals today are hardly given a life that reflects the Christian values of kindness and compassion. Yet there is a growing concern for the treatment of farmed animals, and The Star Tribune’s article, “More Shoppers Demand Ethical Treatment,” published on December 19, was right in mentioning that.
Sadly though, the practices described in the article as “humane” don’t give pigs the lives they deserve. To make matters worse, Hormel is portrayed as a company supporting improved conditions for animals. The reality is that they have yet to make meaningful commitments to animal welfare. Let’s take a closer look at the video posted online with the article.
“We’re looking for farm partners that raise the pigs with integrity, raise the pigs with care,“ says the Hormel spokesperson. I am sure they are delighted to partner with families like the one featured in the article. But the truth is that there are no laws or policies at either Hormel or in state or federal law to stop suppliers from engaging in horrific abuse, such ripping out piglets’ testicles without painkillers. This is a standard practice in the industry.
Mercy for Animals has asked Hormel to commit to implementing the following practices throughout it’s supply chain:
- Eliminate abusive and extreme confinement systems, such as gestation and farrowing crates, and replace them with less cruel group housing systems
- End agonizing mutilations, such as castration and tail docking without pain relief
- Provide a safe, sanitary, and cognitively stimulating environment by keeping all animal areas dry and clean and providing environmental enrichments, such as straw and other natural materials
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for animal abuse and install video monitoring systems that live stream to the internet to deter egregious acts of violence against animals
Hormel has not yet committed to these practices. Other large suppliers, like Walmart and Nestlé, have committed to ending the use of gestation crates, as well as ending castration and tail-docking without painkillers.
Let’s also be honest about the conditions pigs face even on the best of farms. “Industry practice is to house pregnant sows individually to protect them from aggression they may face,” explains Mr. Mogler, the farmer featured in the article. In fact, mother pigs are typically forced to spend their pregnancies, averaging 114 days, in “individual housing” (otherwise known as a gestation crates) where they can’t even turn around. This practice is apparently changing on the Mogler’s farm, but it’s unclear how much time the pigs get to spend in group housing. In the video, we regularly see the pigs in farrowing crates (where they still can’t turn around) to nurse. After the piglets are removed from all contact with their mothers at around 28 days, the moms will be caged to be artificially inseminated, and so the cycle of pregnancy and loss will begin again.
In nature, mother pigs find a private spot to build a nest for their piglets. Other moms don’t bother them; they’re too busy caring for their own young. And, needless to say, the pigs aren’t killed at six months old so that somebody can eat them. Instead, moms and piglets stay together in social groups for a full year. The young pigs then move out on their own, and adult pigs live four to eight years.
Obviously though, all of Minnesota’s pigs won’t be running wild. The good news is that farm sanctuaries here in our state such as Farmaste Animal Sanctuary, Spring Farm Sanctuary, and SoulSpace Farm Sanctuary take in pigs. In these loving and protected conditions, pigs can live up to 20 years, developing close bonds with humans and other animals.
There is much that concerned readers can do to help see that farmed animals have the lives they deserve. A great first step is to stop eating pigs. There are many bacon and pork alternatives found in grocery stores. Plant-based meats can be bought from The Herbivorous Butcher or ordered in dishes at many local restaurants.
Compassionate Action for Animals and other local groups can support the transition toward plant-based eating. Together, let’s make this holiday season meaningful. Let’s take compassionate action for farmed animals, and start taking them off our plates.
A version of this commentary was submitted to the Star Tribune but not published. We are sharing it here on our blog instead. If you’re interested in writing letters to the editor in response to breaking news stories, please let us know.
Last week, The Washington Post shared the story of Esther the Wonder Pig. She’s the Internet sensation who was adopted as a mini pig but grew into a giant pig the size of three linebackers. She’s the kind of pig that you would find on a typical factory farm—bred to be enormous.
But Esther is not a factory cog in the wheel. Anyone who follows her on social media knows her as a living, breathing individual. She’s sometimes hysterically funny, often snoozing and nibbling, and altogether adorable.
But Esther is really not so different from the thousands—no, millions of pigs that you’d find on a factory farm today. Of course, they’re each distinct in their own ways, yet what they have in common is what we all have in common: the capacity for pleasure and the capacity for suffering.
At Compassionate Action for Animals, it’s our mission to reduce the suffering of farmed animals. We want to help the greatest number of animals and have the biggest impact possible. We acknowledge that the vast number of pigs alive today aren’t nearly as fortunate as Esther. Just last week, we shared this video of a shivering, scared pig on her way to a slaughterhouse. It was heartbreaking and for many of us a wake-up call.
Her name could be Esther, and she needs your help today. Please make a gift to Compassionate Action for Animals and support our work speaking out for farmed animals.
At CAA, we’re always asking ourselves how can we create a world where there’s less demand for animal products. How can we create a world where more people choose vegan and fewer animals are used as food?
It’s a long road perhaps, but as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
We have to believe that’s true, and certainly there is evidence to show the arc is beginning to bend our direction. There have been undeniable strides in our movement to help animals: plant-based foods are increasingly in demand, the word “vegan” is one that virtually everybody knows, many celebrities are going vegan and talking about it with their millions of followers, and vegan food options are available at supermarkets and chain restaurants with increasing variety.
None of this was true twenty years ago. What could the next twenty years bring?
Animal agriculture is rightfully quaking in their boots. They consider the growing sophistication of animal activism and the rise in popularity of plant-based food to be two of the biggest threats to their business. And we are a threat because we are making a difference. We are creating change.
But how has that change happened? And how will the momentum continue?
Over the past year, CAA has reached thousands of people through outreach initiatives. Check out these numbers:
Vegan food samples given away: 6,058
Pay-per-view outreach participants: 1,580
Virtual reality outreach participants: 439
Leaflets given away: 19,741
Attendees at Twin Cities Veg Fest: 7,000+
Students reached through Bridges of Respect: 1,200+
And these people reached through our direct outreach programs are in addition to the hundreds who attend our community-building events, including potlucks, dine outs, camping trips, and the annual vegan chili cook-off.
All of these programs help raise awareness about why farmed animals need our help and how people can make more compassionate choices in their everyday lives.
We’ve seen amazing response:
- “It was fun giving out the quesadillas—lots of people had never tried vegan food before.” –Vegan food giveaway volunteer
- “Someone came up and told me she’d seen the video at last year’s festival and had gone vegetarian.” –Pay-per-view volunteer
- “It was great to get to connect with folks from my community at Cinco de Mayo. People’s eyes were opened and some cried as they watched the videos. I had lots of great conversations with people interested in making changes.” –Virtual reality volunteer
- “It’s so rewarding to see people reading the leaflets and starting to think. I know we helped people make the connection between what’s on their plates and what happens to animals.” –Leafleting volunteer
Thanks to these volunteers and to the more than 200 other individuals who have helped with our programs throughout the year.
In many ways, it’s our local community of animal advocates that makes CAA unique and effective. As part of the global movement, we’re building vital momentum on a grassroots level.
We look forward to the tipping point, to that moment when the global community that takes action for animals becomes so large that we cannot be denied. Until then, we move forward guided by our new strategic plan, which includes branching into institutional outreach as well as expanding on our current programs.
We are very grateful for the support of our community through volunteerism and also through monetary gifts. Your donations do have an impact. They help to maintain the vital infrastructure and programs required to run an organization that reaches thousands of people every year. With those dollars, we help people get on the road to compassionate living, and we teach the next generation of advocates how to be most effective.
If you want to help animals, please make a gift today and support CAA’s effective advocacy. Your donation will be matched and you can help us reach our year-end goal of $24,000 by December 31.
We are very grateful for your support for CAA and your dedication to ending needless suffering and death.
We hope that whenever you see Esther the Wonder Pig, or even the other Esther on her way to the slaughterhouse, you will feel your compassion burning bright, whether it manifests as a feeling of joy or sorrow. But take heart knowing that you are doing your part to make the world a safer, kinder place.
Thank you for all you do for the animals.
Do you know about our humane education program?
Founded in 1999, Bridges of Respect has reached tens of thousands of students in the Twin Cities metro area with free presentations that inspire compassion, teach critical thinking, and raise awareness about important animal protection issues.
In the past year, Bridges gave forty-one presentations at seven schools, ranging from middle school through college. With a team of fourteen volunteers including program coordinator Shannon Kimball, we reached more than 1,200 students with a message of compassion for animals.
Presentations offered a variety of engaging, interactive experiences for students. In three of this year’s presentations, a professional vegan chef prepared vegan pancakes for more than a hundred students. In other presentations, we had a “Battle of the Plant-Based Milks,” a fun contest that gave students an opportunity to try soy, almond, and cashew milks and then vote for the one they thought was best.
Through these kinds of presentations, we can show students 1) how to make vegan food; 2) how delicious vegan food can be; and 3) why it’s important to move toward a vegan diet.
One student said, “The presentation at my school was very great and kinda hit me. I want to try baby steps to start a plant-based diet type of lifestyle.”
Also this year, CAA made a video to inspire teachers to request a free Bridges presentation for their classes. (Check out the video below.) We hope it inspires you too.
Bridges welcomes new volunteers to help out. You could either be trained to lead presentations, distribute food samples, or take photos. Contact Shannon if you’d like to learn more.
Also, we welcome your help in reaching our year-end goal. These funds are vital to the continued growth of Bridges of Respect and other CAA programs.