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I Learned to Like Vegetables (and You Can Too)


Thursday, May 08, 2008


When I became a vegetarian, I could have probably counted the number of fruits and vegetables that had crossed my lips the previous 18 years on two hands.

But things are different these days, and veggies are the highlight of my lunches and dinners. But it wasn't always that way. Like most people, I hated all things green and healthy.

I see questions about this on the boards a lot—people calling themselves picky eaters, saying they don't like a single vegetable out there. Take it from a person who was just like you. You CAN learn to like vegetables. And beyond that, you CAN meet your daily quota in a variety of tasty ways.

Here are some of the techniques and tips I used to like vegetables. Try them yourself—you just might be surprised.

Say no to plain vegetables. One of the main reasons people don't like vegetables is because they try to eat them plain. If you're just starting out, this is one of the worst things you can do. Most people don't have the taste buds for a plate of steamed broccoli or spinach. And why should you have to suffer through that for the sake of your health? The thing I did most when I started eating healthier was put vegetables into things I already ate: broccoli mixed in with macaroni and cheese, chopped carrots mixed in with seasoned noodles or rice mixes, and frozen spinach added to a can of soup are just a few examples. This is a great way to introduce veggies into your diet, where the flavors of the other foods you eat them with help them taste better and less noticeable. Start by adding small amounts of veggies to your standard meals, and as your taste buds adapt, you can add more and more.

Mix your food. If you're one of those people who neatly puts your food into distinct piles on a plate, never mixing them up, then you might hate this idea. I'm not one of those non-food-mixers myself. Most of my meals get mixed up into one big jumble, and while it doesn't look pretty, it sure tastes good. This is similar to the tip above, incorporating veggies into dishes you already eat. But sometimes you can't just add a helping of peas to, say, a turkey burger. But served as a side, you can mix bits of veggies on your plate with the other main dishes—to add flavor and mask the taste if you don't like it.

Add some flavor. When cooking vegetables, it usually takes just a little bit of flavor to make them more appetizing. I'm not a fan of plain vegetables either. I don't think many people are. But you can add flavor (and nutrition) to raw veggies with healthy dips like hummus (great with carrots, celery, sliced peppers, cucumbers and more) or your favorite salad dressing (yep, it works for things other than salads). When cooking vegetables, most taste great with just a little salt, pepper and garlic. But I find that sautéed onions and garlic make just about anything taste good, so I often cook those first and then add some vegetables to the mix, which brings me to my next point.

Learn how to cook! I've had to teach myself how to cook as an adult. I come from a family of…whatever word exists to describe the opposite of a chef. Cooking has become quite a hobby for me and it's surprisingly fun, relaxing, entertaining and interesting. So how'd I learn to cook? Mostly by trial and error. But I can't take all the credit. I read books and magazines and would call my cooking friends to ask how to prepare a random vegetable that I bought at the store. Little by little, you'll pick up knowledge and learn how to make food taste (and look) great. Even if it doesn't come out perfectly, you'll still learn what NOT to do, and that's a step in the right direction.

Try, try again. Most of you are probably parents who have to deal with picky eaters on a regular basis. What most feeding experts will tell you is that a child has to try a food several different times before they might being to like it. What's true for kids is the same for adults. There are foods that I swear I hated my entire life that now, I really like. I just kept trying them in new ways, in different combinations, etc. I used to think I hated strawberries because I had never had a strawberry that I ever liked. But a couple years ago, I was on a mission to find that perfect strawberry, because I just knew I'd like it if I just found a good one. And what do you know—I did. And in the process I learned that, to me, organic tastes best. And so does freshly picked berries in summer (when they're at the peak of freshness and flavor), so I only eat them then. I also learned what color they should be to taste perfect. This is just one example of how you can't write off a food, especially if it's been a very long time since you last tried it.

Learn the seasons. Seasonal food is fresher, healthier, and all around better tasting. Strawberries in winter and pumpkin in summer doesn't make much sense, even if you find it in the grocery. Go to your farmer's market and talk to the growers of all things green. They'll tell you what's good and how to eat it too.

Look for veggie-packed dishes when dining out. Restaurants sure know how to make anything taste good, and that applies to vegetables too. Think outside the box. Order a vegetable side dish or a vegetarian meal instead of your usual meal. I learned that even though it looks weird and kinda gross, I sort of like eggplant sandwiches. I haven't learned how to make them on my own yet, but a local restaurant sure does a good job, so I'm leaving it to them.

Do some reading. I recommend the following resources to help you love veggies a little more.

Vegetarian Times magazine. Interestingly, most of their subscribers aren't even vegetarians—just people interested in eating more vegetables or healthy food in general. I adore this magazine, which is more than just recipes. It's chockfull of cooking techniques and tips, interesting bits of information about food, and a super eco-friendly spin. I'd recommend it to anyone interesting in eating healthier.





Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. I recently picked up this cookbook, but like the magazine above, it's far more than recipes. Learn cooking tips, food preparation techniques, and all sorts of useful kitchen information, such as how to cook and prepare beans, homemade bread and seasonal foods.





In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Need inspiration to eat more plants? Look no further.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post:
DAFFYANGEL 12/13/2012 8:56AM

  This is 100% me. I was raised in the south where you put bad things in veggies to make them taste good. Well, those bad things in my veggies are now bad things on my hips and I'm trying to get my body back. Thank you for posting!

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CAMROLA 11/8/2009 12:27AM

    I keep going back to this post--thank you for sharing. Love it!

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MEACASE2001 7/18/2008 9:20AM

    Great ideas!

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GRAMMABANANA1 6/6/2008 11:30PM

    I agree with what you said about plain veggies. I did not like asparagus or broccoli at first until I tried it with cheese. Now I eat both plain.

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DINKALLEY 6/3/2008 7:47PM

    I couldn't agree more on the veggies -- I have learned to crave them, even the ones I used to hate.
One of my favorite reference sources is Dr. John MacDougall
www.drjohnmacdougall.
com
He has a lot of evidence about the health benefits of vegetables and fruits...and how even chicken and fish can increase cholestral and blood pressure.

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MACDEHA 6/3/2008 10:13AM

  I've learned to love eggplant recently, and how to make a great eggplant sandwich. All you do is cut up eggplant, roast it in the oven at about 450 (you can coat it with a little olive oil, but that isn't strictly necessary) until it's soft and squishy. It's really good roasted with yellow squash, zuchini, and onions! Hope yall enjoy!

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SKINNYLYNNY50 6/1/2008 12:59AM

    Great article ! I'll start to do some of your suggestions and see if I can increase my veggies. Thank you for the health tip

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ATX_33 5/29/2008 11:24PM

  The one way I learned to love veggies is to make them the way my husband makes them--Indian style! He's been a vegetarian his entire life and when I learned to cook his food with Indian spices, I learned to love almost any veggie.

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WHITTGO7 5/25/2008 6:04PM

    My husband had really high cholesterol. So his doctor told him to drop the meat except for chicken and fish. Being the stinker he often is, he dropped all meat and ate only vegetables and fruit. His doctor couldn't believe how low it had dropped! So vegetables are really great for us--along, of course, with the fruit he ate! emoticon

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RACHELEROY 5/22/2008 7:55AM

    Once you're really eating healthier - and cutting out the hgh fructose corn syrup and processed foods - plain veggies have wonderful flavors. Your palette will change, and natural flavors will become more distinct and yummy!
Now I even grow my favroites in my yard - sugar snap peas, tomatoes, zucchini, etc.

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NONIGIRL2008 5/21/2008 12:16PM

  great article. I love veggies and these are some good ideas about how to prepare and eat them.

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PREDFAN 5/20/2008 2:34PM

    I too have had to learn to like veggies and fruits. I haven't ever been big on them but am definitely learning to love them. I have found that lemon juice is great on most steamed veggies. It seems to take away what I like to call the taste of dirt that I taste on most veggies. I have also learned to incorporate different dips into my diet. I use fat free whipped topping or fat free ranch dressings, or T Marzetti has a light fruit dip and fat free onion and ranch toppings that are great on raw veggies. I figure in the extra calories from the adders but know that it is more important to have the fruits and veggies daily so whatever I have to add to eat it I am good with, it keeps me eating them daily and that is a far cry from where I used to be with them which was never.
Keep up the great info you provide Nicole and Thanks.
Kristy

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ANNAGM1 5/19/2008 11:38AM

    We grow a large garden. Lots of corn, cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers (anahiem and jalapeno's) - squash, zuchinni, onions, purple hull peas - I absolutely love my fresh vegies and love going to the garden to eat a tomato right off the vine. emoticon

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NANAMYBUDDY 5/17/2008 7:41PM

    Nicole, I happen to love vegetables but any time I can read something you write, I do. You have a wonderful and gentle personality and even if I hated vegetables, I would eat them now! Keep up the good work. You are a great inspiration to all of us. I love the videos. Keep 'em comin'!!!
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FUNKY_LADY 5/16/2008 6:11AM

  You have some really great advise for those who don't like veggies. My husband is one of them! I will try some of your techniques. My granddaughter has been eating vegan style and sometimes has a hard time figuring out what to eat. We gave her 2 cookbooks for her birthday (15th) that are helping. emoticon

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LINSUARA 5/16/2008 12:37AM

    I thought I was the only one that mixed my food altogether. It makes everything taste better. I love your ideas. Thank you. I sure would love to know how to make an eggplant sandwich. I am going to see what I can come up with. I love eggplant.
Thank you for your ideas. They really help.
Linda

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NICOLE46 5/15/2008 8:26PM

  HI I'M NEW AT THIS BUT I CAN SAY ONE THING.WHAT YOU HAD TO SAY ADOUT EATING VEGETABLES AND FRUIT ARE GOOD. CAUSE I AM NOT A HUGE FAN OF ALL KINDS OF FRUIT AND VEGETABLES BUT I AM SURE GOING TO TRY ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU SUGGESTED FOR PREPARING AND EATING THEM . THANKS

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BROOKE.DAVIDSON 5/15/2008 6:48PM

    Great tip about going to Farmer's Markets, we'd all do a lot better for our bodies and much more if we supported local growers.

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JAZZIAN12 5/15/2008 5:48PM

    I like your ideas, I love veggies- raw, cooked, or plain, I may never be a complete vegetarian but veggies are a very large part of my day,I can eat my entire dinner without meat, some good steamed veggies and a good fresh garden salad are delicious with a little fruit on the side to help the sweet tooth

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PEACHYDEE 5/15/2008 2:58PM

  This information was really helpful as I'm learning to like more vegetables myself. Learning how to season them to enhance the flavor is what I'm working on right now. I find that preparing meals is more enjoyable to me now because I'm learning how to make them healthier and at the same time taste good. Great article!


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MARYROTH 5/15/2008 12:06PM

    Thank you so much for your article. I am struggling with fruits and veggies, although I REALLY, REALLY want to like them. I found that sometimes I can puree things. Like I make my own Spaghetti sauce by pureeing the tomatoes myself and adding my own mixture of spices.

Thank you again for the advice...it is wonderful getting idea's on how to get past your vegetable dislikes. :)

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BSHOWELL 5/15/2008 10:08AM

    Great tips! I happen to like plain vegetables (I know, I'm weird), but I'm always looking for new things to do to them.

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LATEBIRD 5/15/2008 9:09AM

    Thanks so much for this post. I myself love veggies, but my husband is not a huge fan. He is getting better at trying new things, so that helps a lot. These ideas will help me find more healthy things we both like for meals.

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SPIFFYSMILE 5/15/2008 1:00AM

    Great post Nicole. I'm not exactly a veggie hater, but i rarely eat them. Reading your post has given me some incentives to incorporating more of them into my diet.

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IMREITE 5/15/2008 12:42AM

    I was never a huge fan of veggies. It is easier if it is made into a game. Try pickinging a color or a letter and finding a food that starts with that letter or are that color. Eating by color also provides different vitamins and minerals

Farmer's markets are great to introduce yourself to knew foods. Trying a new veggie or fruit can introduce you to something you enjoy.

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JUDGEJOYCE 5/14/2008 10:58PM

    I never ate vegetables till I was over 21 because my mother had Crohn's disease and was Dr. Crohn's patient and he didn't allow vegetables. Now that I love a large number of vegetables I'm having a hard time with them myself because of reflux. But - baby spinach sauted in Pam then added to egg whites with a bit of low fat cheese makes a great way to get veggies in early in the day. Coach Nicole has the right idea mix the veggies in with spices, onions, other foods and you'll enjoy them. that's how I learned to do it.
emoticon emoticon

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SIRDEATHSTRIKE 5/14/2008 10:29PM

  I always loved vegetables because they're a 0-point food (especially spinach and lettuce and broccoli). When you're hungry enough, ANYTHING tastes good!! I find whatever sauce I like makes vegetables delicious. Once I remember feeling like eating french fries. But all I really felt like was ketchup. Although ketchup is packed with sugar and not low in calories, sometimes you can really cut your cravings by dipping raw cauliflower into it.

Personally, I prefer vegetables plain and raw. But I have such bad gas and digestive problems from over-eating vegetables that I always have to steam them really well and never have anything raw (I sort of miss salad besides the fact that I used to eat more salad in a week then 99% of North America would eat in a year. And that's salad with 1/2 cup of salsa for dressing!!)

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SWEETPEA75 5/14/2008 7:12PM

    I eat certain veggies now, but with this info I will extend my veggie habits. emoticon Thanks!

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CHERIE55 5/14/2008 6:29PM

    A lot of really good info. Thank you, Cherie

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TUKESTOICO 5/14/2008 5:42PM

    I really needed these kind of ideas to eat more veggies. Thanks!
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JULIETEXAS 5/14/2008 5:40PM

    Thanks for all of the great suggestions!

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LYNNHUG52 5/14/2008 12:50PM

    I love eggplant. Never thought of it as a sandwich. Let me know when you come up with the recipe for it. Thanks!

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MOM1014 5/14/2008 12:19PM

    Makes me want to fix a stir fry meal tonight! I do like veggies so your article gave me more ways to incorporate them into my meals. Thanks!

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TDMULL 5/14/2008 11:50AM

  Thanks its a great idea to add vegetables I don't like to somethings I do like to eat.

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NATIONMOM 5/14/2008 11:09AM

    My favorite thing is frozen stir fry veggies. You get a good mix of different kinds of vegetables. Yesterday I added grated carrot to mac and cheese for my kids.

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ITHINKICAN4 5/14/2008 11:07AM

  emoticon for the tips about veggies. Need to learn how to convince my kids that eating veggies and fruits is a healthy way of living. I love veggies but they get turned off just by mentioning them. emoticon emoticon again.
Patti

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BZMOMO6 5/14/2008 10:36AM

  I used to be one of those picky eaters too. Because I want to be healthy I started trying things. Over time - this did NOT happen quickly - I started liking more things. I recently watched a series on the discovery channel on the human body that opened my eyes to how we can learn to like things. If we eat a food that contains nutrients we need, it causes a "feel good" chemical reaction in the brain to get us to eat it again. So the place to start it to try stuff!!! Start with one bite and work your way up. I am also one who can't stand to have foods all mixed up and don't like to drown my food with cheese or sauces. Where there is a will there is a way!!!

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SIRENA3 5/14/2008 9:45AM

    emoticon I got many ideas from your post! ;-)

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LADY_FENCAI 5/14/2008 9:05AM

    Great!!! im sharing this with my co-worker! im trying to get her to eat more veggies!!


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SMILEYPOLLY 5/14/2008 5:12AM

    Brilliant blog with great ideas. Thanks for sharing
Polly

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MARIASPARKLE 5/14/2008 4:58AM

    Fantastic blog. I just adore my fruit & veggies, but don't eat enough of them. I'll try to get more in.
Thanks for your blog!
Maria

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LADYTIGER01 5/14/2008 12:47AM

  I am one of those picky eaters you mention, to almost a psychotic degree. It really should be considered an eating disorder rigt alongside anorexia and bulimia.I can't stand when foods touch each other, I dislike most veg's and fruits, and I especially dislike strong seasonings. For me, the blander and least flavored the better. I read recipes and diet plans, and will always get maybe 2 or 3 ingredients in and hit one of my "red flags" and literally gag just reading the recipe. The suggestions here just won't work for me, and I bet for many. I belong to a adult picky eaters email group, and for many, texture, strong flavoring, and color are major roadblocks.

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FROGSTERSMUM 5/13/2008 11:05PM

  I don't mind vegetables, once they are in front of me.

I just have a problem making the effort to actually buy, clean and prepare them. The hubby is a meat and potatoes kinda guy and if he never saw veggies again, I doubt he would miss them. It is just too easy for me to make the meat and starch and then get lazy with the veg part.

I want to eat more veg for health and, more importantly, to aid in my weight loss.

Anyone with any tips, tricks, suggestions on how to get past this block and clean and prepare veg in a quick manner, please message or email me.

I would love more veg... especially raw or lightly steamed. I just get that block in cleaning and preparing every day!

Thanks.

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FROGSTYR 5/13/2008 10:21PM

    I love vegetables and fruits...can't get enough of them. And I guess I just have an adventurous spirit because I just love searching out and trying veggies and such that I've never tried before. For me it's like a treasure hunt...finding something else to like. My newest discovery? Parsnips! I had them once when I was much much younger and detested them. But, my sister in law recently found a recipe for lemon-dill parsnips and carrots...just cut them into sticks, par boil and add a dash of lemon juice, dill, a bit of salt and pepper to taste with just enough butter (or lower fat butter substitute) to make the spices stick to the veggies. Even the kids loved them (they told them the parsnips were special "white" carrots).

Comment edited on: 5/13/2008 10:20:09 PM

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BUSTIE1 5/13/2008 8:44PM

  Great article well done. I'm also a vegetarian and my savior cooking book is 'The Essential Vegetarian cook Book' Published by Murdoch Books - Australia, Publisher Anne Wilson, printed by Toppan Printing Co ltd. This book helps with learning all about carbohydrates, fibre, protein, vegans, vitamins and minerals. Then it has the most amazing recipes for soups and starters, snacks and party food, pies, flans and pizzas, pancakes, fritters and omelette's, pasta and noodles, grains and pulses, casseroles and bakes, salads, vegetables on the side, stir-fries, savoury breads, muffins and scones, sauces, dressings and condiments, desserts, cakes, pastries and sweet muffins, drinks etc. This book really helped me in my journey as well as all the Sanitarium cooking books - fantastic. I will never look back and I'm always healthy now 43 with children and husband who eat mostly vegetarian and love it. Cheers Fiona

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TAMID59 5/13/2008 8:43PM

  Hi again everyone...lol Okay, so I just got busted trying to sneak some green peppers into the beef stroganoff I made for supper! My son found them, didn't cut them small enough I guess!!! But yet he'll eat them without question in salsa sauce! Salsa has a stronger flavor than my bland stroganoff. yes, made it quickly and didn't add enough flavor (mushroom soup-more next time)...lol Just thought I would share that with you all!

I also just remembered something someone told me about cauliflower. If you boil it, drain, mash and then cool til cold, you can mix mayo and onions, salt and pepper and put it on a sandwich...supposed to taste just like egg salad sandwiches. haven't got around to trying it yet!

Comment edited on: 5/13/2008 8:44:38 PM

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RENETTA4 5/13/2008 8:39PM

  Thanks for the info. I am learning how to eat veggies and fruit for a healthier life. Renetta

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TAMID59 5/13/2008 8:33PM

  I found with parsnips , which I am not particularily of, if you add a LITTLE brown sugar/honey and butter, dill weed, salt and pepper, they can actually taste a bit like carrots done up this way. My kids love cooked carrots like this! Haven't tried to get them to eat parsnips yet!?!?

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SAIDTHEFAE 5/13/2008 8:25PM

    Awesome tips! I am using those to make my husband eat more than green beans!

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KBRIS003 5/13/2008 7:36PM

    I especially enjoyed the part about adding vegetables to my favorite foods to develop my taste for it hit home with me. I have always tried things raw.....which isn't as bad for me now. But, I think I'll start that at home and see if my husband will go for it. He's the typical stubborn "meat and potatoes" kinda person.

Karyn

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