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Spring into the season: Great dishes and flavors to celebrate spring's arrival

(BPT) - When spring finally arrives, we gladly shed heavy coats and snow boots. Meals, too, lighten up with warmer weather, as we leave behind hearty soups and heavier meals...

(BPT) - When spring finally arrives, we gladly shed heavy coats and snow boots. Meals, too, lighten up with warmer weather, as we leave behind hearty soups and heavier meals in favor of more sprightly and seasonal fare. Spring celebrations - from Easter brunches to graduation dinners - are great opportunities to revisit old favorites and try something new.

This spring, why not celebrate the season with a blend of familiar and new? Here are some favorite flavors and foods of spring, along with some ideas for giving them new appeal:

* With bright colors and strong, sweet flavor, citrus adds zing to spring. Lemon is ideal for incorporating into spring dishes, from enhancing veggies like early spring squash, to delightful desserts like Lemon Pull-Aparts. Lemon also plays well with a variety of fish dishes - perfect for anyone observing fish Fridays during Lent.

* Baked dinner rolls are a springtime favorite for every meal of the day. What Easter brunch would be complete without them? Dinner rolls take on fun seasonal flare when you use ready-made options like Rhodes Bake-N-Serv dinner rolls to create edible works of art like bunny shapes, egg baskets and rabbit-shaped veggie dip bowls. Simply thaw the raw rolls, and shape them while still cold to make a variety of delicious, creative shapes - without the work of mixing and kneading your own dough. Try these two fun recipes to dress up any springtime table:

Bunny Buns

Ingredients:

1 package Rhodes Dinner Rolls (thawed but still cold)

Directions:

Cut a small piece of one roll for a tail. Roll remaining piece into a 16-inch rope with pointed ends. Twist top of rope together. Place on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Pull pointed ends apart for ears. Roll small cut-off piece into a ball for the tail. Using your finger, make an indentation at the spot for the tail. Moisten the tail with water and place in the indentation. Repeat to make as many bunnies as desired. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap and allow rolls to rise for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the wrap and bake at 350 F for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Enjoy with butter.

Veggie Rabbit Dip Bowl

Serves 12. Prep time: 15 minutes (excluding thaw time). Bake time: 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

2 loaves Rhodes Bread Dough, thawed but still cold

2 sliced almonds

2 large raisins

1 egg, beaten

Directions:

Cut one loaf of bread dough into 1/4 and 3/4 portions. Shape 3/4 portion into egg shape for body and place on a large sprayed baking sheet. Shape 1/4 portion into pear shape and place above body for head. Clip side whiskers with scissors. Cut second loaf in half. Cut one half in half again for ears and roll into two 16-inch ropes. Fold together and place on top of head.

With remaining half of loaf, divide dough in half. Take one half and cut into two pieces. Shape into two large thumper feet and place under bunny. Clip toes. Divide last piece of dough into 1/3 and 2/3 portions. Divide 2/3 portion into two hands and place on side of body and clip fingers. Divide remaining 1/3 dough into two large balls and one small ball. Place two large balls on face for cheeks and one small ball for nose.

Place two raisins on face for eyes and two almonds for teeth. Brush everything with beaten egg, even the teeth. Cover with sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise 15 to 30 minutes. Remove wrap and bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until browned. Let cool. Hollow out tummy and fill with your favorite dip.

You can find more great dinner roll recipes at www.rhodesbread.com.

* Spring brings the arrival of one of the most delectable edible buds - artichokes. Add them to pasta salads or green salads for flavorful pizzazz. In addition to being delicious and timely for spring, artichokes are packed with antioxidants and fiber, and are believed to deliver a host of health benefits, including improved digestion and lower cholesterol.

* Peas are the quintessential green veggie of spring. Low in calories and high in vitamin A, peas are a go-anywhere ingredient. Raw peas add color and snap to spring salads. A handful tossed into warm pasta dishes add a layer of flavor and enhance nutritional value. Cream them as a base for a cold soup or a sauce to enhance fish.

* Nutritionists advise Americans to eat a colorful range of fruits and vegetables, and for sheer bright color and great flavor it's hard to beat strawberries. They also deliver a wealth of health benefits since they're packed with key nutrients like potassium, magnesium and vitamin K - all important for overall good health. Eat them sliced and sprinkled with an alternative sweetener for a simple, low-calorie treat, or try something new and original like strawberry bruschetta.

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