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Food & Dining

(BPT) - As the weather warms up and you're beginning to think about sunny brunches and breezy dinners on the patio, it may be time to take a fresh approach to your spring entertaining. From Easter and Mother's Day to a number of other spring holidays, who wouldn't want to step up their hosting game?

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Make your spring host chores easier

During a season of celebration, temptations can preoccupy you, but that doesn't mean you have to give in. These tips will help you plan a spring gathering to impress your guests while treating them to better-for-you choices.

1. Choose dishes that can be prepared ahead of time.

While you may be looking to wow your family and friends with your impressive entertaining abilities, you also want to catch up and spend time with them. After all, isn't that the point of hosting a gathering? Find a main course that can be prepped before your gathering so you'll have more time to laugh and talk with your guests. Make a plan so everything will be ready for your guests to enjoy at the same time.

2. Reach for home-style-tasting and simple ingredients.

Take pride in each ingredient you use while preparing to entertain. Read labels and be conscious of what you are putting on your table. A brand such as Naturally Fresh(R) offers delicious, home-style-tasting salad dressings and dips with no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

3. Make better-for-you substitutions.

Sticking with a better-for-you theme doesn't mean you have to skip dessert. You can find plenty of dessert recipes that substitute ingredients to increase nutrition and lower fat and calorie content. For example, you can substitute applesauce for oil and butter, or coco nibs for chocolate chips. Get creative and your guests will marvel at your fresh approach to cooking and baking.

4. Opt for fresh foods when possible.

Include various types of fresh fruits and vegetables in your appetizers, main course and side dishes. Fresh foods contain wonderful vitamins and minerals, so why not share some of the benefits with your friends? A veggie tray with Naturally Fresh(R) Classic Ranch Brand Dressing is a classically refreshing hors d'oeuvre to serve at any spring gathering while beautifully displayed watermelon makes a sweet and guilt-free dessert.

5. Create shared platters.

To avoid loading your guests' plates with huge portions, create platters that everyone can share. While you're setting up, be mindful of the number of people you're hosting compared to the amount of food you prepare. Serve the meal family style and encourage everyone to try a little bit of everything.

Bring a better-for-you mindset to your spring gatherings when you follow these tips. For more recipes and to find Naturally Fresh(R) Brand Dressings in store, visit: naturallyfresh.com/recipes or naturallyfresh.com/find-a-store.

Grilled Ranch Chicken Quesadilla

* 1/2 cup Naturally Fresh(R) Classic Ranch Dressing

* 8 - 12 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast

* 2 medium red bell peppers

* Olive oil, as needed

* 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

* 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

* 2 tbsp. green onions, chopped

* 1 tbsp. cilantro, fresh, chopped

* 1/4 tsp. cumin, ground

* 8 (6"- 8" size) flour tortillas

* Marinate chicken in ranch dressing, cover and refrigerate for one hour. Grill 4 to 5 minutes on each side, or until no longer pink. Cool slightly; slice thinly.

* Brush peppers with olive oil. Grill over high heat, turning frequently, until charred. Remove from grill; peel off skins, remove seeds, and chop coarsely. Combine cooked chicken, chopped roasted peppers, cheeses, green onions, cilantro and cumin in medium bowl; mix well.

* Brush one side of tortilla with olive oil; turn over. Spread chicken mixture on one half. Fold other half over filling; press firmly. Grill tortilla over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes on each side; increase heat to medium to crisp. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. Cut into wedges and serve.

Editor’s Note: Naturally Fresh(R) Brand products are available at participating Kroger, Publix, Harris Teter and Ingles stores in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, and can typically be found in the refrigerated section of the produce area. If you don’t see the product you are looking for, please let your store know you’re interested in Naturally Fresh(R) Brand products.

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