Fair food on a stick adds to mealtime fun

It’s easier than you think to turn many common dishes into trendy foods you can make at home

     It’s the heart of summer, when thoughts turn to the county and state fair.
    It’s a time for casual fare, the type you can eat while perusing the exhibits and visiting the midway. Sweet corn, burgers, brats and traditional summer treats are typical meals at these events, but a new phenomenon seems here to stay — deep fried or grilled foods on a stick, perfect for strolling crowds or children who seem to love anything served in bite-sized pieces.
    You can get just about anything on a stick, or so it seems. Deep-fried snacks such as Twinkies and candy bars join such mealtime entrees as spaghetti and meatballs  and shish kabobs and desserts like miniature pies on a stick.
    You can replicate the idea at home, although you can make it a more healthy meal by grilling the foods instead of deep frying them.
    For an entree, try making a deconstructed cheeseburger, fajita or your favorite sandwich. Grilled cheese sandwich wedges can be threaded onto a skewer and grilled, too.
    For an easy take on a classic meal, try meatballs on a stick. Depending on the type of meatball, a dipping sauce can enhance the flavor. Or make chicken nuggets on a stick with ranch dressing on the side.
    For a breakfast, place squares of French toast on a stick with fresh fruit or slices of ham or Canadian bacon between them. A little syrup can be served on the side.
    Try serving the entrees with salad on a stick, dipped in your favorite dressing. An easy take is the caprese salad, layering grape or cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese balls on a stick.  You can grill the salads or serve them fresh and cold.
    The final course can be dessert, as simple as grilled fruit on a stick or as extravagant as a Black Forest skewer with layers of cherries and cake dipped in melted chocolate. They can be enjoyed on their own or with a bowl of ice cream.
    Strawberry shortcake is another dessert that can easily be deconstructed. Just place a shortcake round on a skewer, add a dollop of whipped cream and a piece of strawberry. Top with another dollop of whipped cream and another shortcake round, chill and serve.
    Or try a rum-soaked pineapple pop. Make a simple syrup with 3/4 cup each water and sugar, cool it and then add 1 cup rum. Pour over 1 large pineapple that’s been cut into bite-sized pieces and let soak for 30 to 45 minutes. Skewer the pineapple and freeze it for 1 to 2 hours, then serve.
    Or cut kiwi into 1-inch rounds, insert a stick and freeze. Melt chocolate and dip the frozen fruit into it, then serve.
    Following are recipes from delish.com.



Waffle Pops

2 cups biscuit mix
1-1/3 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Melted butter
Warmed syrup
For confetti waffles:
Melted white chocolate
Rainbow sprinkles
For chocolate banana waffles:
Mini chocolate chips
Sliced bananas
Peanut butter
For cookies and cream waffles:
Melted chocolate
Crushed chocolate sandwich cookies

    In a large bowl, whisk together biscuit mix, milk, oil and egg.
    Grease preheated waffle iron with cooking spray. Pour batter into waffle maker and immediately place popsicle sticks on top. Cover sticks with more batter. Cover and cook until waffles are golden. Carefully remove from waffle maker.
    Serve with melted butter and warm syrup.
    To make confetti waffles, drizzle waffles with melted white chocolate and top with sprinkles.
    To make chocolate banana waffles, drizzle waffles with melted peanut butter and garnish with mini chocolate chips and banana slices.
    To make cookies and cream waffles, drizzle with melted chocolate and sprinkle with crushed cookies.
    Makes 20 pops.


Pizza Tornados

3 cups cherry or grape tomatoes
3 green peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cups small button mushrooms
1-1/2 cups sliced pepperoni
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 tube refrigerated pizza dough
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Freshly ground black pepper

    Thread cherry tomatoes, bell pepper pieces, mushrooms, pepperoni and basil on eight wooden skewers.
    Roll out pizza dough on a large work surface. Slice into thin 1/2-inch stripes and wrap around skewered ingredients. Brush skewers with olive oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning and season with pepper.
    Bake in a 400-degree oven about 15 minutes, until deep golden colored, then remove and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake another five minutes, until cheese has melted.
    Makes four servings.


Bacon Burger Bites

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon barbecue sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 slices bacon, cut in half
6 slices mozzarella, cut into small squares
Pickled jalapeno peppers, for serving
Ranch dressing, for serving

    Combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, barbecue sauce and garlic powder in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Roll mixture into tablespoon-sized meatballs.
    Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat. Wrap each meatball in a bacon slice. Cook meatballs about 12 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the meat is cooked through.
    Top each meatball with a square of cheese. Cover pan and cook one to two minutes, until cheese is melted. Remove from pan.
    Top each meatball with a slice of pickled jalapeno, then skewer with a toothpick to serve.
    Makes 12 servings.



Steak Taco on a Stick

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 pound sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 avocado, cut into chunks
2 ears corn, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 flour tortillas, cut into triangles
Hot sauce
Lime wedges.

    To make marinade, whisk together garlic, jalapeno, cilantro, cumin, lime juice and vegetable oil and season with salt. Set half the marinade aside and add steak to the other half. Toss until coated.
    Place avocado, corn, red onion and tortillas in a large bowl. Toss with reserved marinade.
    Skewer meat and vegetables and grill over high heat for eight minutes. Serve with hot sauce and a squeeze of lime.


Antipasto Bites

9 ounces fresh cheese tortellini
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
8 ounces mozzarella balls
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 ounces sliced salami
1/4 pound roasted red peppers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 bunch fresh basil
14 ounces artichoke hearts, drained and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 pound green olives

    Boil a large pot of water, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook tortellini according to directions until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
    Season tortellini with salt and pepper. Add balsamic vinegar and 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix to combine, then set aside.
    In a small bowl, place mozzarella balls, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and remaining olive oil. Mix to combine, then set aside.
    Layer mozzarella, salami, roasted red peppers, tortellini, basil, artichoke hearts and olives on skewers. Serve.


Deep Fried Ravioli on a Stick

1 quart vegetable oil
1 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
12 ravioli or 20 tortellini

    Place flour in a shallow dish and eggs in another. Mix breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan, oregano, basil, thyme, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a third shallow bowl.
    Toss half the ravioli in flour, then shake off excess. Dip in egg, then in breadcrumbs. Thread three ravioli or five tortellini on a skewer.
    Repeat with remaining ravioli.
    Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When oil reaches 350 degrees, place two skewers at a time in pot and fry for four to five minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.
    Serve warm with marinara sauce or pesto on the side.



Meatball Parm Skewers

1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cups marinara sauce
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
6 mozzarella slices, cut into small squares
Fresh basil leaves

    Mince two cloves of garlic. Thinly slice remaining garlic.
    In a large bowl, mix ground beef, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, minced garlic, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until just combined. Roll into golf ball-sized rounds.
    Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove meatballs from skillet and wipe pan clean.
    Place skillet over medium heat and add marinara sauce, sliced garlic and remaining Parmesan cheese. Bring to a simmer, then add meatballs. Spoon sauce over meatballs, cover and simmer another 10 to 12 minutes, until cooked through.
    Top each meatball with mozzarella, cover pan and cook until cheese is melted.
    Top each meatball with a whole basil leaf, folded, and pierce with a toothpick to serve.



Boozy Melon Bites

1/2 medium watermelon
1/2 small honeydew melon
1/2 small cantaloup
2 cups vodka
1 bunch fresh mint

    Use a melon baller to create balls of watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe. In a large bowl, combine fruit and vodka, making sure fruit is submerged. Place in refrigerator to soak for one hour.
    Remove and drain fruit, reserving alcohol if desired. Skewer fruit and  mint leaves, alternating types of melon with a mint leaf between each. Serve.
    Makes eight to 10 servings.



Chocolate Bacon Skewers

12 slices bacon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips, melted
2/3 cup peanut butter

    Soak 12 skewers in water for 30 minutes.
    Thread bacon onto  skewers and place on a  parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar, then place in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes, until golden and crispy. Place on paper towels and let cool slightly.
    Microwave peanut butter on high for 10 seconds. Drizzle bacon with chocolate and peanut butter, allowing to cool slightly before serving.
    Makes 10 servings.


Cheesecake Pops

12 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cups chopped strawberries
1/4 cup crushed graham crackers

    In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, sour cream, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt with a hand mixer. Fold in strawberries.
    Spoon into ice cube tray, then sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top. Insert a popsicle stick into each cheesecake cube.
    Freeze until cheesecake is solid. Remove from tray and serve immediately.
    Makes 12 to 15 servings.


Bacon Brussels Sprout Skewers

1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 pound thick-cut bacon
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

    Pierce one end of a piece of bacon with a skewer. Pierce and place a Brussels sprout on top of the bacon, then pierce bacon again to weave the two. Repeat with two or three more sprouts.
    Repeat with remaining bacon and sprouts. Place skewers on a baking sheet and roast in a 400-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until bacon is slightly charred. Sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving.



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