While we can’t completely let our guard down regarding COVID, for many folks this is the first year that they will be hosting and attending big holiday parties.

Invariably we either need to bring a dish to a potluck or will be hosting our own events. This is also the time of year I am asked about some quick and easy holiday recipes. I have no qualms about using shortcuts and my apps are always a hit. 

Cranberry & Goat Cheese Bites

You can make your own puff pastry, but why bother? The pre-made packages you’ll find in the frozen section are perfectly fine. The same can be said for cranberry sauce and fillings. 


1 large egg 

1 package, (8 oz,) goat cheese 

1 package (17-ounce package) frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed  

all-purpose flour, for dusting 

½ cup whole-berry cranberry sauce 

halved pecans (optional)



Set pastry out to defrost. 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Whisk together the egg with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl for an egg wash. 

Cut the goat cheese into 32 even pieces. Set aside. 

Unfold a defrosted puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. 

Roll out into a 16-inch square. Cut into 16 squares. 

Repeat with the second sheet so you have 32 squares total. 

Top a pastry square with about 1/2 teaspoon cranberry sauce, a piece of Brie, and a pecan half.  

Use your finger or a pastry brush to brush the edges of the pastry square with egg wash until lightly coated and tacky. 

Pinch 2 opposite points together, then pinch the remaining 2 points together. 

Repeat with the remaining pastry squares and filling. 

Transfer the pouches to the prepared baking sheets. 

Brush all with the remaining egg wash. 

Bake until puffed and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. 

Allow to set for 5 minutes before transferring to a platter for serving. 

Makes 32 appetizers.

Pastrami Meatballs

Using prepared frozen meatballs makes this dish easy to prepare and a popular party dish. Serve on cocktail rye or cut triangles of rye bread from a deli loaf. 


Cooking spray, for the baking sheets 

2 large eggs 

1 small onion, minced 

4 cloves garlic, minced 

2 teaspoons mustard powder 

1 tablespoon brown sugar 

2 teaspoons kosher salt 

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper 

½ teaspoon cracked black pepper 

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 

¼ teaspoon ground coriander 

¼ teaspoon liquid smoke 

¼ teaspoon ground allspice 

I package (2 lbs.) frozen meatballs 

1 cup breadcrumbs 

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley 

brown deli mustard, for serving 

dill pickle chips, for serving 


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. 

Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. 

Add onion, garlic, mustard, and spices to eggs, beat to mix thoroughly. 

Toss frozen meatballs in egg mixture. 

Mix breadcrumbs and parsley in a separate bowl. 

Take meatballs 1-2 at a time and roll in breadcrumb mixture, remove and place on greased baking sheet. 

When all meatballs are on the sheet spray them with cooking spray. 

Bake meatballs until cooked through and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. 

Allow to cool slightly. 

Meanwhile, spread rye squares on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. 

Top each toast with a squirt of brown mustard. 

Top with 1 meatball and 1 pickle chip, hold it all together with a toothpick. 

Makes about 32 portions. 

BLT Bites

These are great for those on a low-carb diet. You can use vegan bacon to make them meat-free. 


3 ounces pancetta, diced 

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved 

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives 

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 to 3 heads Little Gem lettuce (about 16 leaves) 

Shaved Parmesan 

For dipping sauce 

¼ cup mayonnaise 

1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives 

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 

½ teaspoon Dijon mustard 


Sauté the pancetta in a skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, 5 to 7 minutes. 

Drain on a paper towel. 

Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, chives, and vinegar in a medium bowl, and let sit for 5 minutes. 

Mix mayo, chives, lemon juice, and mustard. 

Drain tomatoes and toss with pancetta. 

Arrange the larger lettuce leaves on a serving platter. 

Spoon about ½ teaspoon of chive mayo onto the center of each leaf. 

Top with about 1 tablespoon of the tomato-pancetta mixture. 

Top with a piece of shaved parmesan 

Makes about 32 portions. 

Christmas Tre Deviled Eggs

Baking soda in the water makes the eggs easier to peel. Frozen peas are the secret ingredient that gives this appetizer its vibrant green hue. 


2 dozen eggs 

¼ cup baking soda 

2 ripe Hass avocados or 1 Florida avocado 

½ cup mayonnaise 

1 tablespoon dried chives 

¼ cup frozen peas 

2 tablespoons minced pickles 

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 

2 teaspoons lime juice 

1 teaspoon sugar 

1 teaspoon white vinegar 

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 

yellow bell pepper, for garnish 

edible gold luster dust 

smoked paprika, for garnish 


Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the eggs, add baking soda, stir to dissolve, and bring to a boil. 

Using a slotted spoon, gently lower the eggs into the boiling water. 

Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. 

Run the eggs under cold water until completely cooled. 

Peel the eggs and cut them in half. 

Scoop out the yolks into the bowl of a food processor. 

Add the avocado, peas, pickles, chives, mustard, lime juice, sugar, vinegar, and some Add salt and pepper (to taste.) 

Process until smooth and creamy.

If the mixture seems too thick, add a bit of mayo. 

Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. 

Pipe filling into each egg white half in a tall swirl. 

Use a paring knife or small star cutter to cut out stars from the pepper. 

Coat star with luster dust (optional.) 

Place a star on top of each swirl of filling. 

Lightly sprinkle with smoked paprika to garnish. 

Makes 48 portions.

Rick Karlin is SFGN's food editor. Visit SFGN.com/Food to read his previous reviews. Have a culinary tip to share? Email Rick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..