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Planning a bridal shower? Relax and enjoy it with these food shortcuts

Your dear friend or sister announces she's engaged. She wants you to be her maid of honor. It goes without saying, you're thrilled for her. But - does this mean you'll have to plan at least one bridal shower? Not to mention, wear a dress not of your own choosing and find the perfect gift?

If the bridal shower causes you the most anxiety, help is on the way. Kendall McFarland, director of product and recipe development at Simply Organic, suggests cutting down on stress with these time-saving tips to host a simple but sensational shower for the bride.

* Accept help. When the bride's mother or other guests ask if they can bring anything, say yes. Ask them to bring something you don't especially enjoy preparing or something you know is that person's specialty which the bride really loves. Or have each guest bring a dessert or appetizer, so you can focus solely on the rest of the party and fun. Offers to help are gifts, so allow other bridesmaids or friends to assist if they offer. Working together can add to the shower fun, and give you stories to share as you continue down the wedding day road.

* Go the healthy route - the bride, her bridesmaids and the mother of the bride all want to fit into their dresses when the big day finally arrives. The most thoughtful meal you can offer your guests is a delicious and healthful one. Provide great-tasting, nutritious snacks that go easy on salt, fat, sugar and other potentially unhealthy ingredients and your guests will fondly remember your hospitality.

* Remake everyday favorites. Great dishes don't require hours in the kitchen. Make your easy-to-prepare favorites and dress them up with special festive seasonings. Try distinctive seasoning blends like curry or Italian seasoning, or even seasoned sugar combinations like lemon sugar or cinnamon sugar for a gourmet touch. For example: Add a liberal dose of a spice like oregano, basil or cayenne (or an herbal seasoning blend) along with some garlic and Parmesan cheese to your usual mashed potatoes and you'll instantly serve something out of the ordinary.

* Use clever shortcuts. For inviting flavor without fuss, keep a supply of natural dressing and dip mixes on hand for fresh, homemade appetizers and snacks. Add a dip or dressing mix, such as creamy dill, French onion, guacamole or ranch to equal parts of low-fat cottage cheese and non-fat plain yogurt and mix in a blender or food processor until smooth. Serve with fresh veggies you can buy already cleaned and cut up at the store.

* Plan and shop wisely. Don't exhaust yourself shopping. Outline your menu - including impromptu snacks - ahead of time. Then pick up everything non-perishable at the same time, eliminating last-minute sprints to the grocery store. Don't panic if your grocer is missing that key spice ingredient since it's easier than ever to order online. For example, Simply Organic carries culinary items like organic spices, seasoning blends, baking extracts and flavors, gluten-free baking mixes and other cooking ingredients and supplies - which they will ship to you within a few days of your order.

Here are two great examples of healthy bridal shower dishes from the Simply Organic recipe collection that are easy to prepare:

Strawberry Spice Muffins

Ingredients
1 package Simply Organic Carrot Cake Mix
1/3 cup water
2 large beaten eggs
1 cup very finely diced strawberries

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine carrot cake baking mix, water and eggs. Blend until just moist. Fold strawberries into blend. Pour into well-greased or lined muffin pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Makes 12 regular-size muffins or six large muffins.

Chef Suggestions
Top with cream cheese frosting and sliced strawberries.

Spicy Clementine Salad

Ingredients
Fresh mixed greens
Feta cheese
Clementine orange slices
1/2 cup juice from fresh Clementine oranges
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 package Simply Organic Salsa Dip Mix

Directions
Layer greens, cheese and orange slices on a salad plate.  Whisk the rest of the ingredients together. Chill until ready to serve, stirring right before drizzling on mixed greens.

For more delicious, healthy and easy recipes, visit www.simplyorganicfoods.com and click on the recipe drop-down menu.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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