There is something special about cheese. Perhaps it’s the “mouth-feel” or the seemingly endless forms and flavors that make the dairy product a delight to so many. Even if you are vegan or lactose intolerant there are still products that approximate or duplicate cheese. Whether melting, shredding, cubing or serving whole, cheese is easily one of the most versatile foods. Whether you are having a party, or just want to make something fun for your family to eat, here are a few ideas of creative ways to use cheese. There are also a few creative uses for cheese that don’t involve eating — at least not right away.

For eating

Parmesan cheese chips: I’ve made this myself several times. Parmesan cheese chips are easy to make and can be flavored with herbs, spices, bits of fruit or vegetables, etc. Or they are delicious with nothing added. I used freshly grated parmesan. Just make 2-inch round piles (about a heaping tablespoon) of the cheese, or cheese mixture if you’ve added anything, onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Depending on what you may have added to the cheese, it will take about 10-plus minutes to bake at 350 degrees. Remove from oven, let cool, and voila! Cheese chips.

Mac & cheese waffles: Experiment with breading cold cubes of mac & cheese with egg, flour and bread crumbs until you get a good, stiff mix. Place about a cup or so onto a hot waffle iron and cook until gooey inside and crisp outside.

Cheese straws: They are another fun party food that is more interesting than your basic cheese on a plate with crackers. Here is a recipe I’ve tried: Gather 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar, extra sharp is best; 1 cup all-purpose flour; 3/4 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons; 1/2 teaspoon salt; about 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of milk. Everything goes into a food processor and mix until you have a cheese ball that can be rolled out. Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into strips. Place strips about 1/4 inch apart on greased cookie sheets. Bake until lightly golden at 350 degrees for 15 to 18 minutes.

Fried cheese balls: Dip cubes of cheese in egg and seasoned bread crumbs and fry in hot oil.

Cheese curds: I saw a piece on the Food Channel about these yummy cheddar bites that are popular in Wisconsin with everyone from Milwaukee electricians to plumbers to university students — just about everyone in Wisconsin loves cheese curds. I had to try them. They are hard to describe, as the texture is unusual ("squeaky") — but good. Apparently you can also deep-fry them too.

Mixing soft cheeses with nuts, jellies, fruits, veggies, smoke, herbs or spices: Here is a party snack recipe that I devised recently. Roll out crescent roll dough; smear it with hot pepper jelly; then layer on Monterey Jack cheese. I roll the whole thing up, place in the refrigerator for at least a half hour, then remove and quickly slice rounds onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

Other creative uses for cheese

Pet medication: Hide your pet’s medication in cheese balls.

Topical treatment for rosacea: Dr. Oz's skincare specialist, Dr. Marmur, recommends a poultice of pineapple and cottage cheese for relief of symptoms of the skin condition rosacea.

Cottage cheese mask for dark undereye circles: The natural beauty blog Homemade Beauty with Victoria recommends applying a mask of cottage cheese to the skin under the eyes.

Cream cheese mask for dry skin: Food blogger Gulchathaii tested cream cheese as a dry skin cure, and found it to be very effective. Disgusting, yes, but effective. If you don't mind your face looking the like better side of a bagel for a few minutes, give this one a try.

Cream cheese exfoliating scrub: Mix honey, sugar and cream cheese for an all-natural, gentle, moisturizing and exfoliating facial scrub.

Cheese as sculpting medium: Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that carving cheese into virtually anything is a profession for some and a passion for others. State fairs across the country have competitions for cheese carving. For example, the 2012 Indiana State Fair featured cheese artist Sarah Kaufmann's 200-pound tribute to the Indiana Dairy and Nutrition Council.

And by the way…

Do you want to make your own cheese? I want to make my own cheese after reading a Hometalk post about it (Hometalk is a social network totally dedicated to home & garden). Basically, a brilliant Hometalk member figured out how to make her own cheddar and pepper jack cheese at home using a homemade cheese press. She actually makes it look easy.

Whether you are making your own cheese, disguising your pet's medicine in a ball of cheese, or smearing it on your face as a DIY skin treatment, we'd love to hear how you use cheese at home.

Cris Carl originally wrote this for It is reprinted with permission.

12 clever uses for cheese
We've got ideas for party snacks, pet medication and facial masks.