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A fine time with wine


Seven Maryland winemakers will be on hand next weekend for Fine Wine Time '95, Baltimore County's wine festival. The festival will run from noon until 8 p.m. July 8 and from noon until 7 p.m. July 9 at Oregon Ridge Park in Hunt Valley.

Participating wineries are Basignani, Boordy, Catoctin, Elk Run, Linganore and Woodhall. For $13, festival-goers can have 10 samples of wine and a keepsake glass. Admission is $5 for those under 21, who will get a glass and three non-alcoholic drinks. Hungry folks can sample food from Peerce's Plantation, the Milton Inn, Hunt Valley Catering, Ledo pizza, and Fogler's; dishes are all under $5. Crafts people will be selling handmade jewelry, Ukrainian eggs and Native American items. The event benefits the Oregon Ridge Nature Center and the Baltimore Association for Retarded Citizens. To reach the park, take Interstate 83 north to Exit 20B. For more information, call (410) 296-2272.

Muffins lighten up

Old-fashioned muffins have made a big comeback in recent years, in sizes from giant to mini, in flavors from chocolate to dill. They were touted as natural and full of fiber, suitable for breakfast, brunch, lunch and dessert. Problem is, muffins can be fat- and calorie-bombs, with some having as much as 360 calories and 16 grams of fat. A new little cookbook, "Light Muffins," by Beatrice Okakangas (Clarkson Potter, $12) offers an alternative: 60 low-fat muffins and spreads, ranging from chocolate chip-raisin to sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. All have less than 30 percent of calories from fat. Here's a sample:

Date and Nut Muffins

Makes 12

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped dates

1 cup skim milk

1 large egg, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 12 regular-sized muffin cups, or coat with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, stir the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and dates together. In a small bowl, mix the milk, egg and butter until blended. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients just until the dry ingredients are moistened, about 20 strokes.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, dividing the batter evenly. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the chopped nuts, dividing them equally among the muffins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until light golden brown or until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the muffin comes out clean. Cool 1 minute, then remove from the muffin tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool or to a basket to serve warm.

Nutrition information, per muffin: 213 calories (25 percent from fat), 6 grams of fat, 1.9 grams of fiber.

Flavor in the oil

Just in time for summer grilling and salads, Crisco has a new line of flavored oils, suitable for everything from marinades to dressings; they can be used in cooking or as condiments. The oils have a base primarily of canola oil, which is lower in saturated fat than most other oils, and seem to be part of a trend toward multi-use convenience products, such as vegetable mixtures that can be used alone, for stir-frying, or for pasta or salads. The oil flavors are: Hot & Spicy; Roasted Garlic; Classic Herb; and Lemon Butter. Prices vary, but should be around $2.40 a 16-ounce bottle.

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