Bacon-Wrapped Dates

20 pitted medjool dates
1/2 pound aged manchego or blue cheese, cut into inch-long slivers
10 full slices of bacon, cut in half
1/4 cup maple syrup (if desired)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Gently open the date, insert the cheese and press it closed. Wrap each date with bacon strip and secure with a toothpick. Place the dates on a non-stick baking sheet or a sheet tray lined with parchment paper.  Let the dates roast in the oven until the bacon on top starts to crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes depending on your oven. Turn the dates over and cook until golden brown, another 2 to 10 minutes. Once they have reached that golden color remove the dates from the oven. Brush both sides with the maple syrup and return the dates to the oven for about 1 to 2 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

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