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Chef's Hat: Have fun with food on a stick

The traditional meal on a stick is the shish kabob - a combination of about any type of meat and a few vegetables, which is a whole meal in itself. The Grilled Jerk Chicken Kabobs have a bit of a zing. But you can control the heat by adjusting the amount of seasoning you sprinkle over the top before grilling. PineandLakes.com Illustration

A few weeks ago, someone asked if I was getting ready for winter. When it's early August, it still seems like there is a big chunk of summer left.

But now with the days getting shorter, the Minnesota State Fair in full swing and schools starting soon, it's definitely feeling like summer is losing its grip.

So why not have fun with your food in anticipation of fall and winter? A search of fun foods first led me to an article about state fair foods. A few of the new dishes at this year's fair are: Bacon Maple Doughnuts, Duck Bacon Wontons, Honey Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Maple Cream Nitro Cold Press Coffee and Giant Eggrolls on a Stick.

Although these recipes sound quite tempting, I couldn't imagine going to all the trouble of making a homemade doughnut or finding duck for the wontons.

Foods on a stick are traditional at fairs. So in honor of the Minnesota State Fair, I decided to try a few recipes that you make on a stick. Since I have dozens of small tomatoes ripening, I began with one of my standby recipes.

I added a twist to the traditional Caprese Salad. Putting tomatoes and cheese on a stick doesn't make the food taste any better, but it does add a bit of fun to a tired recipe and entices kids to try something that's out of their comfort zone.

Like strawberry shortcake? Then try the Grilled Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs. Grilling fruit brings out the sweetness, and this combination of angel food cake and strawberries is a great way to end any meal.

The traditional meal on a stick is the shish kabob - a combination of about any type of meat and a few vegetables, which is a whole meal in itself. The Grilled Jerk Chicken Kabobs have a bit of a zing. But you can control the heat by adjusting the amount of seasoning you sprinkle over the top before grilling.

Summer may be winding down, but there's still a lot of days left to throw something on the grill, starting with these fun meals on a stick. Enjoy what's left of the summer and Happy Eating!

Caprese Salad on a Stick

  • 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes (cut in half)
  • 10 to 12 small mozzarella cheese balls (cut into 3 pieces each)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 6 to 8 wooden skewers

Thread a tomato half, then a piece of cheese onto a skewer. Keep alternating until the skewer is about two-thirds full of the tomatoes and cheese. Place onto a serving platter.

Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Drizzle oil mixture over skewers; sprinkle with basil. Serve immediately.

Grilled Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs

Adapted from myrecipes.com

  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • ½ cup vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • Zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 angel food cake (1 pound)
  • 2 pounds strawberries, about 1 1/2 inches wide, hulled to create a V-shaped hollow in the middle
  • 1 cup strawberry jam
  • 20 wooden skewers

Blend together whipping cream, yogurt, sugar and zest in a small bowl. Combine until it is thick. Place in refrigerator and let chill.

Cut cake into square chunks approximately 1 ½ inches wide and long. Cut about 32 pieces. The rest of the cake can be saved for another purpose.

Heat a grill to medium low heat. Place the strawberries in a large bowl. Place the jam in a microwavable bowl. Place in a microwave and heat for 30 seconds. Using a small brush, dab the insides of the strawberries with the jam. Brush the remaining jam on the outside of the berries.

Hold a pair of skewers so they are slightly separated and then place a chunk of cake onto the two skewers. Then add a berry. Repeat with additional cake and berries. Repeat to make an additional 9 kebabs.

Spray grill grate with non-stick cooking spray or wipe with canola oil. Place skewers on grill and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side. Remove when cake is lightly toasted. Serve with the cream mixture.

Grilled Jerk Chicken Kabobs

Adapted from bettycrocker.com

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4 teaspoons Cajun or jerk seasoning (divided)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup canned or fresh pineapple chunks
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, each cut into 12 wedges
  • ½ medium onion, cut into 12 wedges, separated into chunks

Mix 2 teaspoons of the jerk/Cajun seasoning with the olive oil and pour into a shallow glass or plastic dish. Add the chicken and turn the pieces over so they are well covered with the spices. Cover the dish and refrigerate for one hour, turning the chicken over occasionally.

Heat gas or charcoal grill. Drain chicken; discard marinade. On each of six 15-inch metal skewers, thread chicken, pineapple, bell peppers and onion alternately, leaving space between each piece. Lightly sprinkle the remaining seasoning over the chicken/vegetable skewers.

Place kabobs on grill over medium heat. Cover grill; cook 8 to 10 minutes and then turn the chicken over. Cook an additional 5 to 7 minutes, just until chicken is no longer pink in the center and vegetables are tender.

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