- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Summer months are often when our schedules change dramatically, and that’s what we love about this time of year. You’re dining later, waking later or possibly waking earlier if you’re on vacation, wanting to soak in all the sites.

Should you be vacationing with friends or just entertaining out-of-town friends in your home, brunch is always a welcome meal. It satisfies those who won’t eat a big breakfast early in the day, and it appeals to those who are hungry before lunch. The very nature of brunch is laid-back.

Someone makes the omelets, someone fries the bacon, someone arranges sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaves on a pretty platter. And someone threads strawberries, blueberries and miniature peach muffins onto wooden skewers.

The beauty of these muffins is that they are bite-size (so you can eat more than one) and that they can be baked ahead of time (at home) and toted with you. They also make a nice hostess gift if you’re staying with friends, or a nice snack for the nibbling in the car once you’re on the road. If you place two muffins on each skewer, you can serve six persons. Then increase the amount of fruit to nearly two cups.

Five time-shaving ways to create fun finger food on skewers

Be sure to soak wooden skewers from the supermarket in cold water to cover for about an hour if the skewers are going on the grill. This prevents them from burning.

• Alternate cheese cubes and olives for a fun party nibble. Try using feta cubes and Kalamata olives and a peppery cheddar with green olives.

• Wrap peeled shrimp in prosciutto and thread onto skewers, then grill until crispy on both sides.

• Soak chicken tenders in a good Thai peanut sauce. Thread onto skewers and grill until cooked through.

m Thread cubes of watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe and pineapple for fruit skewers that children will love.

• Alternate fresh berries and cubes of poundcake and serve with a warm chocolate fondue for dipping.

Mini peach muffins and fruit kebabs

Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan

4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

½ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

½ cup peeled, sliced fresh peaches, with their juices (3 small)

1½ cups self-rising flour

1 cup assorted fresh fruit, such as strawberries, melon balls, pineapple chunks and grapes

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mist the bottom of 12 miniature muffin cups with the vegetable oil spray. Set the pan aside.

Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until the mixture is creamy, 30 seconds. Add the egg and sliced peaches and juice and blend on low speed just until combined, 30 seconds.

Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Fold in the flour with a wooden spoon or the rubber spatula, 25 strokes.

The batter will still be a little lumpy. Spoon or scoop 2 tablespoons batter into each prepared muffin cup, filling each cup two thirds of the way full. Place the pan in the oven.

Bake the muffins until they are lightly golden and just spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 13 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.

Run a dinner knife around the edges of the muffins, lift them up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and pick them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips.

Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes.

To assemble the skewers, alternate pieces of fruit with three muffins on each of 4 wooden skewers. Serve the skewers immediately after assembling. Makes 12 muffins (2 inches each) or 4 servings.

TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES

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