Summer is here so bring on the barbecues, picnics, pool parties and beach bashes! If you happen to be hosting one of these great summertime soirees try these three easy, make-ahead dishes.  They are all light, colorful and are sure to impress your guests.  Plus, they are all food on a stick so once they are assembled and/or cooked, you simply arrange them on a platter, serve and let your guests enjoy at their own pace. This will leave time for you to actually enjoy a beer, jump in the pool, play some beach volleyball or do whatever your heart desires.  Remember its summer time so the living should be easy!

Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers (in a Chipotle-Honey-Mustard Sauce)

Ingredients (Makes 5-6 servings):

2 Tablespoons Honey

2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard

2 Tablespoons Corse Ground Dijon Mustard

1 Teaspoon Minced Chipotle Pepper in Adobo Sauce (use only the sauce for a mild kick, mince a pepper for more heat)

Juice of 1 Lime                    

1 1/2 lb Jumbo Shrimp (peeled, deveined, tails off)

1-2 cups Fresh Pineapple Chunks (bite sized)*

Wooden or Metal Skewers (If using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them for at least 1 hour before cooking to prevent burning)

Directions:

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the honey, 2 mustards, chipotle pepper, and the juice of half the lime.  Add the shrimp and pineapple and stir to coat everything with the honey mustard sauce and allow to marinate for 15-20 minutes. Note: If you would like to have some honey mustard sauce for dipping or basting, you can reserve about ¼, or simply double the recipe and reserve half.

Next, preheat your indoor or outdoor grill to high.  While it’s heating up, thread the shrimp and pineapple onto the skewers being sure to alternate each.  Then, place the skewers on the grill and cook uncovered for 4-5 minutes on each side.  The shrimp cook rather quickly but you want each skewer to have a nice char and visible grill marks.  After you have removed the skewers, squeeze the lime juice from the remaining half over the top and serve immediately.  Feel free to use more lime wedges for garnish.

*Pineapple Tip: Most grocery store salad buffets sell fresh pineapple chunks that would be perfect for this.  However, if you purchase a whole pineapple, be sure to remove the skin and core before chopping.  Any leftover pineapple can be used in the Fresh Fruit skewers below.

Caprese Skewers

Ingredients (Makes 20-25 skewers):

1 Pt. Grape or Cherry Tomatoes

10-15 Fresh Basil Leaves

1 Container Mozzarella Balls, Drained (Commonly called bocconcini. Usually found in supermarkets preserved in water. The marinated variety works great in this dish too)

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper

20-25 Medium to Large Size Toothpicks

Directions:

First cut or tear the basil leaves into bite-sized pieces, about the same size as the mozzarella balls. Then, to assemble the caprese skewers, simply thread a cherry tomato onto a toothpick, followed by a piece of basil, and finally a mozzarella ball.  Arrange the skewers in one layer on a platter.  Then whisk the balsamic vinegar and olive oil together, drizzle the vinaigrette over the skewers and season with salt and fresh cracked pepper. (If using marinated mozzarella, leave out the oil and vinegar) Finally cover the platter with saran wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  They can be made as early as a day in advance.

If you’re feeling adventurous, try golden grape tomatoes for added color or throw the caprese skewers on the grill for 1-2 minutes on each side!

Fresh Fruit Skewers

Ingredients (Makes 20-25 Skewers):

3 Granny Smith Apples

2 cups Pineapple Chunks (bite sized)

1 Pint Fresh Strawberries

Lime or Lemon Juice

20-25 Medium to Large Size Toothpicks

Directions:

First prep the fruit by coring and chopping the granny smith apples into bite sized pieces.  Then add them to a bowl and toss them with freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice to prevent from browning.  Next chop the tops off of the strawberries, being sure to only remove the leaves.  Lastly, assemble the skewers by threading an apple chunk, followed by a pineapple chunk and a piece of strawberry onto a toothpick.  Arrange the fruit skewers neatly onto a platter, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  They can be made as early as a day in advance.

If it’s not too hot, it’s fun to dip some of the strawberries in chocolate for an extra sweet treat!

April Wardlaw is a self-taught cook who caters and bakes part time.  You can find more of her recipes on her blog: www.aprilscookin.blogspot.com