12 Days of Appetizers, Desserts and Beverages

By Ann Foster Thelen

Whether you need an appetizer for Christmas Eve, a glass of cheer for New Year’s or the perfect addition to a football bowl party spread, we’ve rounded up our favorite recipes made with Iowa-grown ingredients. We’re sure they’ll bring joy and delight to your family and friends!

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1. Wisconsin Cheese Soup

Creamy and dreamy is what this soup is all about. It warms your soul and satisfies your appetite with protein from ham and cheese. A dash or two of cayenne pepper kicks up the flavor and the holiday spirit!

Wisconsin may be the “cheese state,” but Iowa isn’t far behind! Iowa ranks 8th in cheese production in the U.S., churning out an average of 267 million pounds each year!

2. Marinated Cheese

This sophisticated yet simple-to-prepare appetizer will dress up any cocktail party or social gathering. Cheddar and mozzarella pair perfectly with roasted red peppers, garlic, onion and basil. Talk about a sensory delight!

More cheese, please! A serving of natural cheese is 1.5 ounces, or four cubes the size of playing dice.

3. Mint Brownie Trifle

Layers of delicious pudding and chewy brownies make for a satisfying, mint-chocolatey treat. Shake things up this holiday season and serve a cup of dessert as an appetizer. You will win the “hostess with the mostess” award!

No whey: Whey is a high-quality, complete protein found naturally in cow’s milk. “Complete” means it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies can’t make on their own. 

4. Cherry and Red Raspberry Cheesecake

Cherries, raspberries, cream cheese and whipped cream - those ingredients alone are mouth-watering. Not only is this recipe rich and delicious, it's also a festive-looking showstopper for your table!

Cherry picked: Iowa can actually grow cherry trees, though the fruit isn’t as hardy as traditional fruits and vegetables, and the trees do best in well-drained, fertile soils.

5. Bacon-Wrapped, Crab-Stuffed Shrimp with Thai Chili Glaze

Need we say more? So many of our favorite things wrapped up in the perfect appetizer. Sweet, savory and packed with flavor – you better make a double or triple batch of these!

Aquaculture is the term for raising aquatic animals like fish and shrimp and with a growing number of Iowans enjoying the traditionally seaside delicacies, the industry is making quite the splash in our state!

6. Mini Corn Muffin Thumbprints

These are "cute as a button” (uh, corn muffin!) and easy as can be to make. The sweet corn will have you dreaming of an Iowa summer while you are curled up by the fire! The honey, sugar and jam are sure to make these the sweet spot of appetizers at your gathering.

Did you know 99 percent of the corn grown in Iowa isn’t sweet corn? It’s field corn, which contains less sugar and is used to make animal feed, ethanol, oil, food ingredients and starch. 

7. Reuben Bite

This short stack of subtly spicy corned beef topped with swiss, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing has all the big tastes of a classic Reuben sandwich in a snack-sized portion. You'll love them so much that this tangy and beefy appetizer could be "What's for Dinner" all in itself!

Speaking of miniature: Research shows infants and toddlers need high quantities of iron and zinc which cannot be found in breastmilk or formula alone. Nutrient-rich pureed beef can be a great complement to milk to aid in proper growth and development.

8. Dill Turkey Salad Cucumber Boats

Turkey, pecans and blueberries meet the perfect crunchy companions of celery, onions and cucumbers in these delightful appetizer boats. A perfect way to use leftover turkey from your Christmas or New Year's meal!

Turkey tidbit: Male turkeys (AKA toms) gobble, but hens do not; they make a clicking noise instead.

9. Beef and Couscous-Stuffed Baby Bell Peppers

These may be too beautiful to eat, but if you don't try them, you'll be missing out on one delicious appetizer. Sweet red peppers embrace lean ground beef that is combined with spinach, cheese, couscous and herbs in this hearty party dish.

Beef up your nutrition! A 3-oz. serving of lean ground beef provides 10 essential nutrients in 150 calories, less than 10 grams of total fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol.

10. Sister Mary's Heavenly Deviled Eggs

Oh, my goodness, these are heavenly deviled eggs. So creamy with the perfect mixture of zing and topped with bacon and chives. You'll be making these for breakfast, lunch, dinner, parties and more.

Eggcyclopedia definition: If you see “conventional” on your carton of eggs, it means those eggs were laid by hens living in cages with access to feed, water and security. The cages serve as nesting space. In this type of hen house, the birds are more readily protected from the elements, disease and predators.

11. St. Nick’s Eggnog

Jolly St. Nick knew what he was doing when he cooked up this incredible eggnog recipe. Made-from-scratch and garnished with cinnamon this beverage will be by your side throughout the holiday season.

Can’t get enough? You can enjoy this “liquid gold” year-round, as purchased egg nog — like that from Iowa’s own AE Dairy — can be stored in its original carton up to one year in the freezer! Break it out as a decadent creamer in your morning coffee or substitute it for other liquids in recipes such as pumpkin bread or pumpkin pie (just reduce the recipe’s added sugar by 1/3 cup). 

12. Baked French Toast with Maple Yogurt and Berries

This thick and delicious cinnamon French toast, drizzled with a warm maple syrup and yogurt mix, makes for a satisfying breakfast. It's so wonderful you could even serve it for dessert! Treat yourself; it's the most wonderful time of the year!

Did you know: Dairy cows need a hearty breakfast each morning, too! Lactating cows can eat up to 100 pounds each day and enjoy a protein-rich diet of alfalfa hay, soybean hulls, wet corn gluten and a variety of other vitamins and minerals.