One of the things I will miss most this holiday season is large holiday potlucks.

Not just because I will miss seeing my family and friends, but because I will not get to enjoy those tasty holiday appetizers. I find my favorites have one thing in common, dairy. Not just any dairy — specifically, cheese! Is there any better food on the planet? To paraphrase the great Annie Lennox:

Sweet treats are made with cheese 

Who am I to dis a brie? 

Cheddar, Swiss, goat or feta cheese 

Everybody's looking for stilton

Some cheeses can be bleu, too 

Some cheeses can be Buchette d'Anjou 

Some cheeses can be cubed 

Some cheeses will be grated by you.

Sweet treats are made of cheese 

Colby or chevre, if you please 

You can travel the world and the seven seas 

Everybody's chewing on something

Yes, cheese-based dishes are a favorite for holiday gatherings and, though we may not be able to get together this year, there’s no reason that you can’t make one of these delightful holiday treats for your little group (or just for yourself — it is the holidays after all!). They all use easily found ingredients, and pre-made short cuts make them simple enough to prepare that you don’t need a special occasion.

Cranberry Brie Tarts


Courtesy photo.

Prepared wonton wrappers make these a snap to make.


1 package wonton wrappers 

1 stick melted butter 

1 cup of sugar 

1 lb. brie, cut into 1” cubes 

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce


Pre-heat oven to 350°.

Place sugar on a large, flat dish. 

Brush both sides of the wonton wrapper with butter. 

Place one side of the buttered wonton wrapper on the sugar. 

Place a wonton wrapper in a mini muffin tin, sugared side up (so the sugar is inside the cup formed, and the plain buttered side in contact with muffin tin). 

Place a cube of brie inside each cup formed by wonton. 

Bake for 4-5 minutes, or until cheese has melted to fill the bottom of the wonton cup. 

Top with one teaspoon cranberry sauce. 

Bake another 10 minutes or until wonton cups are golden brown. 

Allow to cool slightly, remove cups from the tin and transfer to a serving platter. 

Serve at room temperature.

Spanakopita Tartlets


Courtesy photo.

Find filo cups in the frozen food section.


1 10-ounce package thawed frozen spinach souffle 

1/2 cup crumbled feta  

2 Tablespoons each chopped scallions and dill.  

30 frozen mini phyllo cups


Pre-heat oven to 400°.

Mix thawed frozen spinach souffle with crumbled feta, chopped scallions and dill.  

Fill frozen mini phyllo shells with the mixture.  

Bake 15 minutes, or until fully set.  

Serve slightly warm.

Cheesy Pigs in a Blanket


Courtesy photo.

A cheesy twist on an old favorite.


1 tube crescent roll dough, 8-ounces into 4 rectangles.  

1 package mini smokies (16 oz.) 

4 oz. shredded cheddar or swiss 

1 egg, beaten  

Honey mustard


Pre-heat oven to 350°.

Divide crescent-roll dough into eight triangles.  

Cut each triangle in half from top to bottom, forming 16 triangles. 

Top each triangle with a pinch of shredded cheese. 

Wrap each triangle around a mini-smokie.  

Press edges of dough to seal.  

Brush with beaten egg. 

Bake at 350° until golden, 15-20 minutes.  

Serve with honey mustard for dipping sauce.

Fried Ravioli


Courtesy photo.

Frozen ravioli makes this dish a snap.


Boiling, salted water 

1 package (1 lb.) frozen cheese ravioli 

½ cup each all-purpose and semolina flour 

Salt and pepper to taste 

¼ cup Parmesan cheese 

Oil for frying 

Marinara sauce


Mix equal parts all-purpose and semolina flour, set aside. 

Pour a package of frozen ravioli into boiling salted water. 

Bring water back to boil. 

Drain ravioli immediately. 

Toss ravioli, in small batches in flour mixture. 

Place in oil, four or five ravioli at a time. 

Deep fry until golden brown (about 4-5 minutes). 

Remove from oil to drain on paper towel. 

Lightly sprinkle with a pinch of Parmesan, salt, and pepper immediately. 

Repeat with remaining ravioli. 

Warm marinara (home-made or store bought).  

Serve marinara alongside ravioli as a dipping sauce.

Stuffed Figs with Candied Bacon


Courtesy photo.

The secret is par-cooking the bacon, so the figs don’t get greasy.


12 bacon strips 

¼ cup packed brown sugar 

1 Tablespoons cocoa  

1 teaspoon chile powder 

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 

1 teaspoon ground cumin 

24 dried figs 

8 oz. cup cream cheese, softened 

1 Tablespoon dried chives


Preheat oven to 375°.  

Mix cream cheese and chives until well-blended, chill.  

Cut bacon strips in half crosswise.  

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until partially cooked but not crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain. 

Cut a lengthwise slit down the center of each fig. 

Mix cream cheese with chives. 

Place cream cheese mixture in a zip-lock plastic bag. 

Cut the tip off of the bag and pipe a teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture into each fig. 

On a large plate, mix brown sugar, cocoa and spices. 

Dip one side of each bacon piece in sugar mixture.  

Wrap each fig with a bacon piece, sugar side out, secure with a toothpick.  

Transfer to a baking pan. (Lay so that the cut side of the fig is facing up.) 

Bake 12-15 minutes or until bacon is crisp. 

Allow cooling slightly before serving.

Rick Karlin is SFGN's food editor. Visit 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..