I have been a member of a book club for about 15 years and I always look forward to our monthly meetings. We have about 12 members and we rotate houses to discuss the latest book, so we each host the group about once a year. (This month we are reading National Book Award winner Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, which I found captivating).

Whoever hosts the meeting provides appetizers and dinner for the group. When it is my turn to host, since I’m cooking a big dinner, I like to keep appetizers very simple. I usually put out a cheese plate, a bowl of grapes and a bowl of nuts.  One thing I’ve found is that most women (including my daughter Celia and me) love cheese in almost any form, so the cheese plate is always the center of attention.

Since you are likely to be doing a little entertaining this winter, I wanted to share a beautiful idea for a red and green holiday cheese plate. It’s so simple to make yet it looks festive and tastes wonderful.

For the goat cheese and pesto log, top an 8 oz. log of goat cheese with about 3 tablespoons of pesto and 1 Tbsp. of toasted pine nuts. Serve with thin toasts or crackers. (Hint: to keep the pesto looking bright green, squeeze a little fresh lemon juice in it before spreading it on the goat cheese.)

Here’s how you make the Brie with cranberry sauce. You can also use prepared cranberry sauce, of course, but fresh cranberry sauce is amazingly easy to make and can be prepared well in advance.

What are your favorite easy appetizers to set out before guests arrive? Please share in the comments below.

Recipe: Brie Wheel Topped with Fresh Cranberry Sauce

  • Prep Time: 10 min(s)
  • Cook Time: 15 min(s)
  • Total Time: 25 min(s)

Easy cheese dish for an appetizer


  • 8 oz. wheel of Brie
  • 12 – 14 oz. fresh cranberries
  • 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 1 cup sugar (can use ½ cup sugar for a tarter sauce)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (fresh, if possible)
  • 1/4 cup water


  1. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature. (You can also warm the brie in at 325 degree oven for 10 – 15 minutes if you want it really soft and creamy.)
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Bring it to a boil and simmer it for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. (Can be refrigerated for a week or more.) Drizzle about ¼ cup of the cranberry sauce over the top of the Brie. Serve it with mini-toasts or crackers.
  3. Reserve remaining sauce to stir into plain yogurt, as a topping for sandwiches, to serve with chicken or turkey, or for other purposes.
  4. Note: Before cooking fresh cranberries, discard any that look shriveled or feel soft. It’s fine to use white berries, which haven’t been exposed to as much sunlight as the red ones.

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3 Responses to “Pesto Goat Cheese and Cranberry Topped Brie”

  1. CarolinaGirl

    Love the idea of pesto and goat cheese. Not so much a fan of brie, but it’s very festive!

  2. Amanda

    If I want to use frozen cranberries, do i defrost them at room temp or microwave or just throw in the pan frozen?

  3. Aviva Goldfarb Aviva Goldfarb

    Amanda, I would just throw them in frozen and expect it will take a little extra time. Hope you enjoy!