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Working in a restaurant? Then these articles are probably perfect for you! From server issues to recipes for the cook, these are some of our favorite In The Restaurant finds.

Lemp Mansion: Haunted Restaurants That Make You Say ‘NOPE’

4. Lemp Mansion | St. Louis, Missouri

Want to dine with ghosts?  How about get married around them?  Or you could decide to spend the night with them; either way, the Lemp Mansion is probably one of the scariest restaurants I’ve had the pleasure of researching, so far.  It was likely all of the ghost pictures I saw, that gave me a scare, well, that and the fact that there have been at least four suicides and one death in the mansion. 

Of the Lemp family, William Lemp Sr. committed suicide in the house, which set an example for his children to follow suite.  Out of five children, three of them also committed suicide, in the house: Elsa in one of the guest rooms, William “Billy” Lemp Jr. in the office (now the dining room), and Charles in his room.  All family members chose to use a gun to pull off their feat. 

It also turns out that William “Billy” Lemp Jr. had a secret in the attic.  His illegitimate child, (crudely called “the monkey faced boy”) Zeke, was born with Down Syndrome, and hidden away in the attic.  Unfortunately, he never left the attic when he lived, and since death, he remains there.

With that much tragedy in one location, you could likely imagine that the hauntings in the Lemp Mansion are very active; so much so, employees of the restaurant don’t often stick around.  Such hauntings include the sound of someone running up the stairs, doors being kicked, a peeping Tom in the women’s restroom (thought to be William “Billy” Lemp Jr.), apparitions appearing and vanishing, voices and sounds, and objects flying through the air.  But that’s not all, there are also doors that are locked and unlocked, lights that turn on and off, a piano being played, and objects that vanish. And don’t forget about Zeke, visitors have said that they see him peeking from the third floor windows, and ghost investigators have gotten him to play with toys they leave for him.  It’s also said that these ghosts aren’t shy, they stay very active at all hours of the day.

At one point, the mansion started deteriorating because guests were scared to stay, but now with so many ghost enthusiasts, it’s booming with business!

Seriously people, you want to get married here?  Nope.

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Brennan’s Restaurant: Haunted Restaurants That Make You Say ‘NOPE’

2. Brennan’s Restaurant | New Orleans, Louisiana

Built in 1795, Brennan’s Restaurant is one of New Orleans most famous restaurants, both for its menu and ghosts.  Chef Paul Blange was known for helping to build Brennan’s menu and inventing choices that are well known around the world today, like bananas Foster.  He was so devoted to what he did, that when he passed in 1977, he was buried with Brennan’s Restaurant menu and a knife and fork across his chest.  But death didn’t stop him from occupying the restaurant.  Chef Blange watches over the kitchen by keeping his eye on the employees, and sometimes reaching out to touch them.  He also bangs pots and pans together at the end of the night, just as the doors are being locked. 

If feeling watched and being touched by something that isn’t there, isn’t enough for you, let’s chat about Herman Funk that dwells in the wine cellar, even though he has also passed.  Mr. Funk was known as a wine master, and makes it very clear that is presence is still around by clinking wine bottles to let staff know which choice would be best for the diner. Although employees could easily ignore Funk’s suggestion, they usually go with his choice to make sure this ghost stays happy (which is probably a good idea since Brennan’s is known for their incredible wine selection).  Wine Spectator magazine named the restaurant as one of the 100 best wine cellars in the world.

Oh, that’s not it, there’s still plenty more ghosts to help make Brennan’s one of the most haunted places in the world.  There have been sightings in the Chanteclair room of an old woman peering through the windows, but it is the Red Room that seems to be the most cryptic.  As one of the original owners continued to feel the grief of financial woes, he felt that his best option to escape the trouble was to murder his wife and child, just before hanging himself in the Red Room.  Of course with such horrific events, the Red Room is now the source of many different hauntings, and the current owner’s don’t make the feeling any easier by keeping portraits up of all three of the previous owners that died in the room.  There are reports of cold spots, portrait facial expressions changing, misty fogs, feelings of being watched/touched, and even the feelings of being hated. 

Want to have dinner now? Nope.

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St. James Hotel: Haunted Restaurants That Make You Say ‘NOPE’

5. St. James Hotel | Cimarron, New Mexico

Out of the 5 restaurants (some within hotels) that I’ve written about so far, this one is likely one of the most famous, simply because of its former, famous guests and the more than 26 murders that occurred in the building.  The guest list of famous people that frequented St. James Hotel, included Clay Allison, Black Jack Ketchum, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody, Annie Oakley, Wyatt Earp, Bob Ford, Bat Masterson, General Sheridan, Kit Carson, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Pat Garret, Frederick Remington, Governer Lew Wallace, and Zane Grey (to name a few of course).  And all of these cast of characters, including the other guests that passed through, definitely left their mark when they stayed: when the roof was replaced in 1901, there were 400 bullet holes found in the ceiling, and today, you can still see 22 bullet holes in the dining room of the restaurant (formerly the saloon). 

Of course today, those 26 murders have led to numerous spirits that still linger around and cause mischief.  Although paranormal activity has been felt throughout the establishment, it is the second floor that is the most active.  People have reported feeling cold spots, smelling cigar smoke (no smoking allowed in the hotel), apparitions (very clear, detailed ones at that), objects flying off the wall and shelves, electrical equipment acting sporadically, lights that turn on and off, feelings of being watched, and guest digital gadgets ceasing to work. 

Room 17 is home to a previous owner’s wife, Mary Elizabeth.  Although guests are more than welcome to stay in the room, they’ll likely be greeted by the smell of roses, insistent tapping when the window is left open, and her apparition. 

A staff once reported that he heard ear-piercing shrieking while working at the front desk, where two other patrons that were in the lobby, went undisturbed.  Yet, another guest got invited to play poker with a round table of gentleman, that were proved to be ghosts – the person that saw the ghosts could have sworn they were flesh and blood people.

Then there’s room 18.  This room is off limits to everyone.  It stays locked, but houses a bed frame without a mattress, a rocking chair, coat rack, a hand of cards, shot glasses, and a bottle of Jack Daniels.  This room remains locked because it is said to be the most haunted room in the building, and is where the angry ghost of Thomas James Wright resides.  Mr. Wright was shot outside of this room, but stumbled inside the door before he slowly bled out.  His ghost is likely uneasy, because he was shot after he had just won the hotel in a poker game, and obviously someone wasn’t willing to hand it over to him.  Mr. Wright makes it very clear that he doesn’t like people to visit his room, as he pushes people to the ground when they enter and appears as a raging ball of light.  It has also been rumored that other deaths have occurred in this room.

Definitely, nope.

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Patsy Clarks: Haunted Restaurants That Make You Say ‘NOPE’

With Halloween around the corner, I thought I’d bring together a list of 5 haunted restaurant stories to get you in the mood for tricks with a little side of treats.  And although I love a great horror movie, some of these tales got me a little frightened, even in the office – you really shouldn’t tap someone on the shoulder when they’re researching haunted restaurants.

1. Patsy Clarks | Spokane, Washington

Let’s start this off with restaurant ghosts that are best described as playful.  If I had to deal with ghost sightings, I’m sure that wine bottles and glasses flying across the room would be better than feeling like you were being watched… oh wait, that happens at this mansion too.

Patrick (Patsy) Clark was the original owner of this mansion, and spent over $13 million to build and furnish this house back in 1897.  Now called the Patsy Clark mansion, it has been known that ghosts like to play pranks on employees by throwing wine bottles across the wine cellar and following them around the building, although no tragedies ever occurred in the mansion.  There were various stories around who haunts the mansion, but it is either three entities that lurk the wine cellar or Patrick’s wife Mary that lurks the entire building.  Either way, expect to get your wine thrown at you if you visit this place.

Unfortunately, the place is no longer a restaurant, but it does offer to host events on the first floor. 

I think I’ll say nope to eating here.

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Catfish Plantation: Haunted Restaurants That Make You Say ‘NOPE’

3. Catfish Plantation | Waxahachie, Texas

Another restaurant with plenty of ghosts to help you enjoy your meal, is the Catfish Plantation.  Located in Waxahachie, Texas, the Catfish Plantation has three ghosts named: Elizabeth, Will, and Caroline. 

Elizabeth was murdered in the house back in the early 1920’s on her wedding day by an ex-lover.  But being murdered on her wedding day wasn’t Elizabeth’s only misfortune, because she still resides in the building to this day.  She’s often found in the bathroom, but has also been seen looking out windows and bursting through doors.

Will was a former owner that died in the building from a sickness, and he too still resides at the plantation.  Will can be seen on the front porch in his overalls and felt touching legs of female patrons.

Then in 1970, Caroline passed away in the building from old age, and she had very set ways that she continues to share with the restaurant’s employees.  She loved cooking, so she usually hangs out in the kitchen, but she hated alcohol, so wine glasses usually don’t last long.  In fact, the staff has to keep wine glasses behind glass in an armoire, to try and prevent Caroline from flinging them across the room.  Caroline also likes to brew coffee herself, and rearrange supplies to her liking.

Other paranormal activity includes banging on the walls, food being flung, doors unlocking themselves, lights going on and off, water being turned on, equipment doors being opened and closed, and dead clocks chiming.  All of which, leaves many patrons leaving before dinner is even served.

Yeah, nope.

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Today’s Food Scraps = Tomorrow’s Soup du Jour

Food scraps

Did you know that here in the United States we toss 40 percent of our food—perfectly edible food—into the trash? That’s a 50 percent increase since the 1970s.

At our nation’s restaurants, a pound of food is wasted per meal created. Food waste is the single most abundant material in our landfills. (Check out this infographic for more food waste stats—it’s an eye-opener.)

You don’t have to be a card-carrying, Greenpeace-dues-paying hippie to see the folly in this extravagance. Anyone with even a smidgen of thrift can see that this level of waste is utterly bonkers.

Here’s the good news: reversing this wasteful behavior isn’t hard, and you’ll save a bundle of money in the process.

So what can you do with your food scraps? An improvised soup—sometimes referred to as “garbage soup” or “kitchen sink soup”—is a good choice, particularly this time of year, with cooler temperatures ushering in the hot soup season.

Tip: Don’t call it garbage soup outside the kitchen. :)

I’ve found that the hardest part is simply getting in the habit of saving your scraps. One strategy is to designate specific food storage bins to collect scraps for later use, either for the fridge or the freezer. That way, there isn’t so much pressure to immediately put them to use.

So what kind of scraps can you freeze and use? Well, if you making stock, the sky’s the limit! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Meat bones (be extra sure to keep frozen until you use them to prevent spoiling)
  • Corn cobs
  • Vegetable tops (e.g. carrots, leeks, beets and fennel)
  • Tomato skins, seeds and juice
  • Potato skins
  • Coffee
  • Shrimp shells
  • Mushroom stems
  • Carrot peelings
  • Cabbage cores
  • Brocoli stumps
  • Pepper seeds and pith
  • Celery root stems and leaves
  • Onion and garlic ends
  • Herb stems

Thrifty Good Life has a helpful warning:

Items to avoid: NEVER use any green parts from vegetables in the nightshade family (tomato, pepper, potato) as these plant parts contain toxic elements. This means – avoid the stems or leaves of bell peppers, tomatoes as well as potatoes with any sprouts on them or green color. Never use any vegetable with black mold or any old/rotten meat. 

Feel free to share your own food-scrap-saving tips in the comments!

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Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

Are you ready to go lead free?

The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act takes effect Jan. 4, 2014. Are you ready?

Under the act, signed by Congress three years ago, “lead free” will be redefined as “not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.”

This is a significant change, folks! The maximum lead content of plumbing products used to be 8.0 percent. When the law takes effect on Jan. 4, it will be illegal to sell or install products that exceed 0.25 percent lead.

If you live in California, Vermont, Louisiana or Maryland, you’re ahead of the curve. These states have already implemented tougher safe drinking water standards with respect to plumbing materials. The new federal requirements play catch up to these states’ regulations.

The Good News

The act does NOT require existing infrastructure to be proactively replaced. But when you eventually need to repair or replace a pipe, fixture or fitting, you’re probably going to have to find a compliant replacement that has less than 0.25 percent lead.

Also, just to clarify, we’re talking about drinking water here. The act doesn’t apply to non-potable-water plumbing systems, such as industrial processing, irrigation or outdoor watering. The law also excludes toilets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers, or shower valves.

What to Look for When Buying New Plumbing Supplies

NSF International and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have responded to the updated definition with NSF/ANSI 372, which will go into effect in October 2013 as certification for the 2014 lead-content restrictions.

nsf-372

Helpful Resources

Want more information about the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and how it might impact your business? These sites can answer your questions.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

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How to Clean a Commercial Griddle

Commercial griddle

If you ask 10 professional chefs how to clean a commercial griddle, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.

There are several ways to skin the proverbial cat.

While cleaning methods and materials may differ from chef to chef, the goal is universal: a clean, sanitary griddle that allows for efficient cooking and delicious, unadulterated food.

What You’ll Need

It usually takes 5-10 minutes to properly clean a grill.

Directions

  • While the griddle is hot, pour 1 cup of cooking oil (you can use fryer oil) onto the griddle surface.
  • Scrub the griddle surface with a griddle brick/pumice stone, making small concentric circles—Miyagi style—until the surface is clean.
  • Scrape the oil into the grease trough and discard. Turn the griddle off.
  • Pour (carefully) 1 cup of club soda/seltzer water onto the still-hot griddle. The carbonation helps loosen and lift stubborn grease.
  • Scrub the griddle surface with your griddle brick/pumice stone, making small concentric circles until the surface is clean. Scrape remaining liquid into the trough for discarding.
  • Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar onto the griddle surface, spreading liquid out evenly across the entire surface and not allowing the vinegar to pool.
  • Rub the griddle surface with a rag, making small concentric circles until the surface is polished.
  • Scrape the vinegar into your grease trough and discard.
  • Rub the surface with a rag soaked in cooking oil to polish and reseason the steel.
  • Bask in the warm glow of your newly cleaned griddle.

“How Often Should I Clean My Commercial Griddle?”

If your griddle sees heavy daily use, we advise cleaning it daily. This will prevent flavor transfer, efficiency loss and unsightly burnt-oil-flake contamination.

Shop griddle supplies at eTundra.com:

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Routine Restaurant Maintenance Tips

Routine maintenance can help save your time & money in your restaurant.

When restaurateurs, and others, in the food service industry are looking for ways to save money, all too often, those savings can be found in areas that are being neglected in-house. Say, what? That’s right, those big pieces of equipment in your kitchen need to have routine maintenance and cleaning, or they’ll breakdown. In fact, many equipment repair companies prefer to come into a kitchen that has been maintained throughout the year, because it’s easier to do big fixes – which means savings for you too. And once equipment gets to the point that it’s no longer running, you’re already out a lot more than you would have been if you would have kept up with routine maintenance.

When equipment is maintained throughout the year, it lasts longer. Condenser and evaporator coils on refrigeration units will build-up dust and grease, and if the mess isn’t cleaned up on a weekly basis (for most food service businesses), you’ll likely end up with broken equipment much sooner than you desired. And it’s not just the equipment you need to worry about. Of course, that’s where you’ll see the majority of savings coming back to you, but there are plenty of other areas throughout your business that can save you money. Let’s take the chairs and tables throughout the dining room for example, when’s the last time you made sure the screws and hardware were secure? What do you think a fall from a customer would cost you if a chair wasn’t thoroughly checked over at least once a quarter?

Maintenance Tips

These lists of routine restaurant maintenance tips aren’t necessarily a go-to-resource for every business, because every business, like every piece of equipment, has needs specific to the way they operate. However, what you can count on every time, is the owner/ operator manual that came with each piece of equipment. It is this information that will speak directly to the model you are caring for. Can’t find the manual? Most equipment manufacturers have digital copies on their websites for new and discontinued models. Should you need help finding the right manual, give our team a call, we will get you and your equipment taken care of!

DAILY

  • All kitchen equipment should be wiped down including the inside, outside and underneath the appliance. This includes all stainless steel surfaces.
  • Moisture is rusts best friend so it is important to wipe sinks & faucets dry with a soft rag.
  • Beverage machine faucets need to be unassembled and soaked to prevent sugar build-up.
  • Wash down floor mats in kitchen and bar areas to prevent grease build up.

WEEKLY

  • Dust the condenser coils on your refrigeration systems.
  • Clean air-intake openings on convection ovens.
  • Clean shelving panels using a mild detergent and soft cloth.
  • Have a professional cleaning company do a top to bottom cleaning of your restrooms.

MONTHLY

  • Change or clean the filter in your air conditioning units.
  • Clean combustion fans on fryers.
  • Wipe down the ceiling, floor and walls of your walk-in to avoid mold and bacteria growth.
  • Clean dishwasher including washing and rinsing arms.
  • Clean out and wash down prep table units entirely.
  • Inspect gaskets on every piece of equipment, wipe down and replace as needed.
  • Check grease filters for build-up.
  • Check gas hoses for leaks – soapy water works best; where there are bubbles, there are issues.
  • Change glue boards in pest control traps.
  • Re-stock your First Aid kits.

QUARTERLY

  • Tighten all hardware on dining room furniture.
  • Tighten all stall hardware in restrooms.
  • Inspect ventilation and exhaust hoods for loose belts.

SEMI-ANNUALLY

  • Change water filters on beverage and ice machines, combi ovens, coffee brewers…etc.
  • Have AC and heating unit checked by a professional.
  • Calibrate thermostats in appliances, i.e. oven, fryer, refrigerator.
  • Clean and inspect ventilation system hood, duct and exhaust fan.

ANNUALLY

  • Replace your ventilation system exhaust fan belt and makeup air belt.
  • Make it part of the culture of your kitchen to educate your employees! An educated staff can spot the signs and address any issues before they turn into bigger, more costly problems.
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How Parents Can Help Their Kids Be Better Restaurant Diners

Help teach kids be better diners before they eat at a restaurant.

Yes, your child is cute.  Especially when it comes to how cute they are as they run around a restaurant, throw their food on the ground, sloppily smear food all over the table and their mouths, scream at the top of their lungs, and impatiently wait for their meals.  Yes, the entire restaurant is sharing in all of the cuteness that is your child.

And how awesome are you to choose a restaurant that is the completely opposite of kid friendly.  In fact, the menu would probably be more appealing on mommy and daddy date night than it would on family night.  And it’s 9pm, so I’m sure your kids are going to just sit down and patiently wait for their late night meal, all without being irritable; especially, because you forgot to bring them any sort of entertainment as they wait their cute little faces off.

Oh you, you deserve the parent of the year award.  The rest of us will just find one of those restaurants that don’t allow kids anymore.

Behavior Expectations for Kids in Restaurants

If you’re one of those parents that’s up in arms about the recent child ban in restaurants, then you aren’t going to like this post (I should have probably led with this sentence, but the cuteness of your child took over).  Not because I’m going to tell you I’m pro- or anti-kids in restaurants, but I’m going to be honest with why restaurants have gotten to the point to enforce a child ban.

It’s because you need to teach your children dinner table manners before you start venturing out into restaurant dining.

Yes, it’s your fault.  But, you can help your child be a better diner, which will save other restaurant patrons a lot of stress while dining out, and to be honest, you as well.  I’m a parent of two little boys, and I know what dining at a restaurant with children is about.  I know how it can get stressful and how they can make messes, but I also know that there are things that I can do to help them not be a restaurants worse nightmare.

It starts at home.

If your child doesn’t know how to properly use a napkin, including keeping it in their lap or tucked into their shirt, you should stick with a restaurant that you know is kid friendly.  They need to know that milk-mustaches may be fun at home, but not when dining out; that is, unless you’re cool with seeing a grown man show off his milk mustache while dining out – awkward, right?

Have your child ask to be excused from the table.  They shouldn’t be getting up and down throughout the meal.  It’s a time to sit and enjoy each other’s company.  If they are still too young to sit through an entire meal, then just keep working on it.  I have my children ask to be excused, which helps them remember that staying seated is important.

Expand their palate.  Yes, hotdogs and chicken nuggets are kid staples, but if you are going to venture out to a restaurant that you know doesn’t have things like this on the menu, then they need to be willing to try what is available.  For example, The Kitchen Next Door, in Boulder, Colorado, is happy to be kid friendly, but they don’t bother with changing their menu just to suite kids’ palates.  Instead, they offer fun, new things like kale chips, marinated beans, slow roast pork sliders, and beet burger sliders.  If your child would turn their nose up to different foods like this, try introducing new foods at home first.

In the restaurant.

High chair at restaurantPick a restaurant that’s perfect for your child.  If you know they won’t eat anything on the menu, that it’s too late to take them out, or they aren’t behaved enough to not drive other diners crazy, pick another restaurant.  I know you may be craving a certain menu item at a particular restaurant, but you need to be willing to know what restaurants are for date night and what restaurants are for kids dining night.  My husband and I love our local sushi restaurant, but we wouldn’t take our kids in there just yet.  We don’t feel that it’s a good fit for our kids, but hat’s okay though, there are plenty of other restaurants I can take them to, and we can expand their palates for sushi, at home (the bonus with sushi is that it’s also fun to make at home with the kiddos).

And to even think about walking into a nice restaurant late at night, already brings on feelings of anxiety.  Kids are tired, hungry, and irritable late at night.  They’d be much more suited for a quick drive through or dine-in option at that point (think Noodles & Co, Chipotle, Mod Market, etc.).

When you do decide to dine out, bring something for them to do while they wait for their food.  Not all restaurants are going to have things to entertain your child, so take some of that responsibility on.  In this day and age, the majority of parents have smartphones and tablets that will pacify any child, but there are plenty of other fun things that you can bring along to help pass the time.

If your child doesn’t like anything on the menu, odds are you picked the wrong restaurant.  However, it’s nice when kids are willing to try new things.  When we go to a Mexican restaurant, my youngest has no idea what half of the menu items are, but I explain what is in the dish and he’s always sold when I mention cheese; he’s actually tried a lot of things that he ends up loving.

This one’s a given to me, but I’ve seen so many parents just leave messes lying about.  Clean up your messes.  Accidents happen, crumbs fall, and mouths get messy.  I know.  But if you aren’t willing to clean up (or at least help clean up) your own messes, don’t expect someone else to; that’s just rude.

It’s nice to give a helping hand.  Seriously, stacking the dishes, collecting the silverware, and pushing it off to one area of the table is just polite.  I used to waitress and loved when families came in and did this.  It made it totally worth it to serve their table.  I do the same thing when we eat out – almost obsessively – and our servers LOVE it!

If your children can’t keep quiet just yet, pick a restaurant that you don’t have to worry about them being too loud.  I swear by sports restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings, because they have the perfect mix for all of us!  The noise level is always up, so we don’t have to be particularly quiet, and there’s a game on the screen that keeps us all happy.

And finally, set realistic expectations for your child.  If you know they aren’t a good diner at home just yet, don’t expect them to be good diners at a restaurant.  Nothing is worse than a child misbehaving, and frustration levels climbing because he/she won’t listen.  If you know your child will be okay at a restaurant, remind them of their manners before entering, and if they mess up, that’s okay but talk with them about it afterwards.

What Weird Things Do Your Kids Eat?

As I wrote this, I started to think of all sorts of foods that my kids eat that are likely not seen as normal to most; at least, I know I wasn’t eating these things when I was younger.  Here are a few things that our kids beg to eat again and again…

  • Raw Oysters.  Yes, I know they’re pricey, but they are so darn good!  We started by getting a plate for my husband and I for an appetizer, and after the boys tried one, they were sold!  So, now we have to get a much larger plate of them.
  • Kale Chips.  If you haven’t tried these for yourself, you’ve been missing out!  They are super yummy, and, surprisingly, the kids love them!
  • Brussels Sprouts.  I don’t know if this is a weird one, but when I grew up, I thought it was odd that I was the only one of my friends that didn’t turn their noses up at these little cabbage greens.  I suppose that’s why I think it’s odd that both of my boys love Brussels sprouts too!
  • Sushi.  It’s kind of hard for them to roll the sushi, but they have no problem putting all of the ingredients together to make their own roll.
  • Salads.  Instead of putting all of the salad together in one big bowl, I separate each item into smaller bowls so they can pick what vegetable and/or fruit they want to eat.  Even if it doesn’t include lettuce, each of my boys has their own favorite pick that they choose – it makes dinner time fun and healthy!

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