Vegan Red Lentil Soup

A delicious vegan soup even veggie snobs will love

My son is a very particular eater. There is very little he is happy to eat, and  he does justice to his Italian name: carbs, carbs, and more carbs, please. Give him pasta and fruit and he’s happy. But there is one thing I make that he eats and asks for more. The best part? It’s healthy, delicious, and vegan to boot. And the rest of the family loves it, too. This Vegan Red Lentil Soup freezes well and is a great thing to pull out of the freezer on a busy night to save your money and your time.

Let it be known that I’m not a vegan (I’m not even a bona-fide vegetarian), but I do enjoy making high-iron, high-protein vegan meals frequently, because they’re healthy, keep well, and are often super tasty.

Red Lentil Soup: vegan, nutritious, and delicious, www.marianamcdougall.com.

I started making red lentil soup from a recipe in a cookbook, but over the years I have changed this soup so much and added so much to it, that now mine is a recipe in its own right. So here I give you the instructions for a delicious meal that will please even the most avid meat lovers. Oh, the photos of the soup are from a Creative Commons site and not of my actual soup, because kids. I guarantee that though my soup looks nowhere near as pretty, it tastes just as delicious as the ones on the photos look.

Vegan Red Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

2 tbsp canola (or other cooking oil)

1 yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, diced

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp ground ginger (or 1/2 tsp fresh ginger)

Dash cayenne pepper

4 large carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery sticks, diced

1 can diced tomatoes (8 fluid ounces)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups red lentils, rinsed

6-8 cups vegetable broth (more broth if you prefer a more watery soup, less broth if you prefer a thicker soup).

Salt to taste

Method:

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, ginger, and cayenne pepper, and sauté until fragrant, about 2- minutes. Add the carrots and celery and mix to coat with the spices. If the onions and garlic are starting to stick to the bottom of the pot, add a splash of veggie broth or water. 

Cook the carrots and celery until they start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, quinoa, and red lentils and stir to combine. Cook for another minute or so, and then add the veggie broth.

Cook, uncovered, and mixing occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes, until the lentils and quinoa are soft. If the soup starts to boil before the 15-minute mark, be sure to lower the heat until the quinoa and lentils are cooked through. Do a taste test and add any more spices and/or salt to your liking.

Take about half the soup and place it into a high-powered blender. Blend the soup, then add it back to the pot and mix together. The result will be a deliciously creamy, orange-coloured soup that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Enjoy!

 

What is Unschooling?

Unschooling: What is it, Why is It, and Does It Work?

Three children sitting on the grass, as seen from the back. Photo by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

Unschooling, in its most simplistic explanation, means letting children direct their own learning. Most unschoolers believe that children do not need to be taught; they are constantly learning on their own.

Coined by John Holt in the 1970s, the term “unschooling” signifies a general mistrust of a systemic or institutionalized school system, and favours child-directed, hands-on life experience. In most unschooler’s eyes, educators are not needed in childhood; rather, educational experiences are needed. 

Just as there are many styles of homeschooling, so there are many variations of unschoolers. Some unschoolers observe their children and provide activities that relate to the children’s interests. Others go about the business of life, letting their children learn by simply living in the world. And yet others, when the option is available, register their children for an unschooling “school,” the most well-known of which is Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Massachusetts. About 50 schools worldwide are modeled after this philosophy of education, which makes resources easily available, but lets children direct their own learning using those resources. 

Unschooling Criticisms & Myths

Critics of unschooling often state that unschooled children suffer from lack of socialization and “real-world” skills, or that it will be difficult for them to attend post-secondary education. However, the evidence points to the opposite: children who have been unschooled are often out-of-the-box thinkers and lifelong learners that thrive in 21st century North America. 

Whether or not unschooled children make friends easily is entirely dependent on the child’s personality—just like with traditionally schooled kids. However, the idea that  unschooled children don’t have an opportunity to socialize is a myth. Homeschooling communities exist and are thriving, and unschooling families often attend events for homeschoolers. Furthermore, several universities now actively seek homeschoolers (of which unschoolers are part). 

Unschooling: does it really work? www.marianamcdougall.com Background Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash shows a girl watering plants.

There are many ways to attain an education. Whether homeschooled, unschooled, alternatively schooled, or traditionally schooled, learning is a lifelong process. Any educational philosophy, theory, or active practice seeks to encourage the child to develop a love for learning, and the skills to seek out reliable resources for learning throughout the stages of life. Unschooling is one of many ways to accomplish this goal.

Do we unschool?

I’ve mentioned this before: I don’t like labels. If I absolutely had to use a word to explain what kind of homeschoolers we are, that word would be eclectic. We use what works and let go of what doesn’t. In a household with 3 kids of wildly different personalities, one of whom learns very differently, flexibility and adaptation are the name of the game.

We use a curriculum for language arts and math, and we follow the kids’ interest for other subjects. We also use Duolingo for learning French and Portuguese. I do prepare some lessons for science, art, social studies, etc., but mostly, we learn from reading a tonne, and from attending real life events and programs. This way of doing things works for our family, and we adapt as we go. This adaptability and willingness to learn from the world around us served us well during our year on the road.

Homeschooling and/or unschooling is definitely not for everyone. I believe each family should be free to choose the best education for their children, and I’m blessed to live in a province that honours my parental right and responsibility to offer my children the education that is best for them.

Please note: this article about unschooling was first published on a now defunct website called Komorebi Post. This version adds some information about my own homeschooling experience.

Heavy Metal Bands Advocating for Suicide Prevention

This article originally appeared on a now defunct website named Komorebi Post.

While suicide is a difficult topic, we need to talk about it now more than ever. 

Man with head in his hands, sitting in a field. Photo by Francisco Gonzalez on Unsplash. Heavy Metal bands advocating for suicide prevention, www.marianamcdougall.com

Worldwide, almost 800,000 people die by suicide each year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. Mental illness, especially depression, is often cited as one of the major factors leading to suicide. But over the years, other things have been blamed for our rising suicide rates. Some believe video games play a part. Others point fingers at absent parents. Yet others suggest some TV shows aren’t helping. But perhaps the cultural phenomenon that receives the most blame for suicide deaths is heavy metal music.

Heavy metal’s long and difficult history as a scapegoat for suicide

Grieving parents, confused scholars, and shocked communities have often blamed heavy metal music for individual suicide cases. Singers and bands such as Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Slayer, and more have even been taken to court as families try to come to terms with tragedy.

In 1985, Ozzy Osbourne’s music was blamed for the suicide of a California teenager. Although the case was thrown out in 1986, there are still those who believe Osbourne’s music encourages fans to take their own lives. In 1990, two families sued the band Judas Priest after two fans took their lives. The young men had been listening to the band’s albums before committing suicide. 

The arguments that heavy metal bands drive fans—especially teenage fans—to suicide continue, even when the evidence is scarce. And it’s no wonder. When tragedy occurs, laying blame is often easier than dealing with our difficult emotions, and it provides a focus outside of our conflicted thoughts about loss. But blaming music for the death of loved ones is neither productive nor well-informed. And while the scapegoating continues, some heavy metal bands are using their platforms to do the exact opposite of what they’re often blamed for: they’re working to prevent suicide deaths.

 

Heavy Metal Bands advocating for suicide prevention. www.marianamcdougall.com. Photo of a hand in an ocean. Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash

Heavy Metal Bands and Suicide Prevention

While some believe that violent lyrics can influence already confused young people, Disturbed fans would beg to differ. That’s because David Draiman, the lead singer of the band, has been personally affected by suicide. It took several years, but he finally worked through his pain with the song “Inside the Fire.”

In the song, he recounts the image he had when he was staring at the coffin of his ex-girlfriend, who took her own life. And in the video for the song, Draiman gets personal. In an introduction before the video begins, he explain his experience dealing with tragedy, and provides the number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Another band working to help prevent suicide is Five Finger Death Punch. With the song “Coming Down,” the band offers the perspective of someone struggling to stay “away from the ledge.” In the poignant video for the song, two teenager’s painful experiences are recounted, and by the end of the song, a simple act is shown that prevents their suicide. The video ends with the words “One friend can save a life,” and the suicide prevention hotline number is shown on the screen.

 

Some will always need a scapegoat for the tragedy of suicide, and heavy metal bands, with their often violent lyrics, provide an easy target. However, these two bands are proving that while exercising their right to creativity, they can also make positive change in the world.

How to Eat More Vegetables

Get Healthy: How to Eat More Vegetables

7 to to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. That’s how much Canada’s Food Guide recommends we all eat, and yet most Canadians aren’t getting enough veggies and fruit—less than half of Canadians meet the quota. Sometimes, people can’t get more veggies and fruit, and sometimes, they just don’t know how to eat more vegetables.

Continue reading “How to Eat More Vegetables”

Long-Term RV Travel Mistakes

Long-Term RV Travel Mistakes: What We’d do Differently

 

During our wonderful year of RV travel with kids, we did lots of things right, but we also made some mistakes that we wish we’d thought about before we left. Here are some of the things we’ll do differently if we long-term travel with our kids again.

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How to Be a Good Listener

How to Be a Good Listener: Developing Positive Communication Skills

I’m a talker. Sometimes, I talk too much. But over the course of many years and many mishaps, I have finally learned how to be a good listener. I still talk too much, and sometimes I still mess up (a we all do). But I try to truly listen when I’m having a conversation, and to consider someone’s points before responding. This is important in every day conversation, but it’s even more important when conflict is involved.

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How to make Brazilian Rice

Delicious Brazilian Rice Is Good Any Time

A staple of my childhood was rice and beans. I’m sometimes asked about traditional Brazilian foods. While the national dish is feijoada, it’s not something most people eat every single day. Rice and beans, however, make an appearance at almost every lunch and dinner.

Brazilian rice is much different than the rice most Canadians experience in Chinese or Japanese dishes, and I figured today I’d teach you how to make it. But first, a quick tidbit about why I eat a lot of rice even though I grew up eating foods that aren’t necessarily Brazilian.

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