Our Favorite Holiday Recipes – 2023 Edition

Seasons Greetings! Last year, Team PFA shared food and drink recipes we enjoy with family and friends during the holidays. We had so much fun with this that we decided to do it again in 2023.

Even if you don’t try your hand at these recipes, we think you’ll appreciate the stories accompanying the recipes!

Craig Joncas – The Romarin (Joncas Recreation)

Last year I shared a cocktail from a favorite local establishment. This year Nikki and I will be making a cocktail recreation from one of our favorite establishments in her hometown: The City of Brotherly Love. While my time Philadelphia did not foster any new appreciation for their sports teams, it certainly did for their bars/restaurants!

One of our most frequented spots, especially on a nice day, was Parc in Rittenhouse Square.  Nikki goes for the bread, but I go for the cocktails. The Romarin is my go-to, and I’ve since tried recreating it at home a few times. Here is the drink as described directly from their menu:

“ROMARIN. Rosemary-Infused American Harvest Vodka, St. Germain, Grapefruit, Lemon”

After experimenting at home I’ve landed on a version of it we love. The color is different, so I know it’s not a perfect replica, but it’s close. Mine is a little more tart and less sweet – we like it that way. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

The Romarin (Joncas Recreation)

Vodka Infusion (3-5 days in advance):

  • Bottle of Tito’s Vodka
  • 1 Large Grapefruit, quartered
  • 3-4 sprigs of Fresh Rosemary

In a large a large container pour in Vodka and add grapefruit quarters/rosemary springs. Cover and allow to infuse at room temperature for 3-5 days. Strain the infused vodka back into the original bottle when complete.

Romarin Cocktail:

  • 2 oz Infused Vodka
  • 2 oz St. Germain
  • 5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 5 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

Shake over ice and serve cold in a coupe glass.

James Bradley – Potato Fennel Gratin

I first tried this recipe we found in an Ina Garten cookbook, desperate for something that would complement the expensive rib roast we’d be serving at the Christmas table. All I have to say is:  Don’t fall for the box mixes or the recipes that have you use frozen hash browns and Velveeta.   This is just as easy! I’ve toyed with the recipe, using different types of potatoes than russets (don’t do that – use the russets!) and using more or less cheese (More is never a bad thing). If you have a food processor with slicing and grating attachments, your prep time will be just as fast as if you used a boxed mix. And it’s SO MUCH BETTER. Lay some sprigs of thyme on the top and your guests will think you’ve hired a gourmet chef.  Who wouldn’t want that?!

You can find the 5-star recipe here.

Jessi Dolmage – Ginger Cookies

A sweet treat can turn a gray day into a pretty good day, especially if my friend Jessica has baked or recommended it. When she told me she was sending me a recipe for ginger cookies, I knew they’d be delicious. But they’re so darn good I’ve made them at least 2 or 3 times during the holidays since 2009. These very ginger forward cookies with warm spices are a perfect pairing with a hot toddy or coffee.

Note this recipe makes a lot of dough and therefore you should make these Giant by using a 1/4-cup scoop or measuring cup for each dough ball (resulting in 2 dozen cookies). The baked cookies also freeze well. You’ll thank yourself when you accidentally find them in the freezer on a dreary winter day.

  • 4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar + 3/4 cup for rolling dough balls in
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together first 6 ingredients.
  3. In large mixing bowl, beat butter on low speed for 30 seconds. Add 2 cups sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in eggs and molasses until well combined. Add in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour mixture.
  4. Share dough into 2-inch balls using a 1/4-cup scoop or measuring cup. Roll balls in the 3/4 cup sugar and place 2 -1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 350 for 11-13 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned and tops are puffed. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Eat at least a couple daily until they’re gone, then make more.

Julie Willette – Pumpkin Roll

My mom’s Pumpkin Roll was a staple around the holidays. It wasn’t just our family who enjoyed her pumpkin roll, friends and family also looked forward to “Cindy’s Pumpkin Roll.” I remember her making several rolls, cutting them in half, and wrapping them in saran wrap to deliver to others. We’d always have it as a dessert option on Thanksgiving along with the traditional pies. I’d save room for at least one piece if not more. I don’t tend to lean towards pumpkin flavored desserts (except my husband’s pumpkin chocolate chip cookies) but the combination of pumpkin with cream cheese filling is absolutely decadent!

I have to be honest, I’ve only made it once. I’ve watched my mom make it dozens of times, and helped her mix the ingredients, but there’s just something about the way that mom makes it. It’s all in how you roll it!

Pumpkin Roll


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt


  • 6 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Line jelly roll pan or large cookie sheet with parchment paper or wax paper. Grease paper or spray with baking spray.
  2. Mix first 4 ingredients together. Add remaining dry ingredients.
  3. Pour onto sheet. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes.
  4. Turn out onto clean dishcloth. Peel off the paper and roll while warm.
  5. Cool the roll, then unroll and spread filling. Refrigerate or freeze.

Melissa Huang – Costa Rican Tamales

Every Christmas morning brings a special excitement: unwrapping the Costa Rican tamales made by my boyfriend’s mom. These banana leaf-wrapped treats are not just delicious; they are a symbol of family and tradition. The filling always brings a burst of flavors and a wonderful start to the holiday.

These tamales mean more than just a meal to me. They embody the warmth of family gatherings and the joy of traditions passed down through generations. As I savor each tamale, I’m also reminded of the love and the special holiday customs that make Christmas with my boyfriend’s family truly memorable.

I’m eager to learn the art of making them, to stand alongside my boyfriend’s mom in the kitchen, absorbing her culinary skills and the love that goes into every tamale. My aspiration is to master this recipe and keep this cherished tradition alive in my own home.

Cooking supplies:

  • Large stockpot, 20 qt or larger
  • Banana leaf, cut into 8″ squares
  • Kitchen twine, cut into 14-18″ pieces

For the dough:

  • 2 cups Maseca
  • 2/3 chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups cold water
  • 2 ½ tsp stick of margarine or butter
  • 1 cube of chicken bouillon
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt (optional)
  • 1 ¾ tsp baking powder

For the filling:

  • 2-3 pounds shredded chicken
  • Carrots, sliced
  • Red pepper (sweet pepper), chopped
  • 4 cups of rice
  1. Make the masa (maize dough) by combining water with masa harina in a mixing bowl and leaving for 15 minutes to hydrate.
  2. Add other ingredients to masa harina and add broth incrementally until a paste is formed. It shouldn’t be either liquid or crumbly, but a moist paste.
  3. Lay out your banana leaves, once you have laid out all of the leaves, start by placing a good spoonful of masa in the middle of each leaf. A bit more than ½ cup.
  4. Next place a bit of rice in the middle of the masa. From here add a couple of carrot slices, a few red pepper slices, and some chicken.
  5. Now you will fold the tamale. Pull up each of the long ends and roll them down as if you were folding a bag of chips or a paper lunch sack. Flatten this down on top of the tamale, then fold the short ends over. Place one tamale on top of the other and wrap them tightly with twine. When you wrap these, it’s just like wrapping the ribbon around a Christmas present- except you do it twice- one time on each side.
  6. Place all the tamales back into a large pot and cover them with water. Cover and bring to a rolling boil.  Boil the packets for 30 minutes. turn off the heat and let it cool in the boiling water for at least 30 more minutes. Remove, dry, and enjoy!

Rebecca Schuman – Scotcharoo Candy Bars

Ever since I can remember, my mom has dedicated a single day before Christmas to bake at least 12 different Christmas cookies. My brothers and I used to help her (and sneak little tastes and bites here and there) but of course as we have all gotten older, helping her bake has become less and less and helping her eat these delicious treats has increased more and more. All of these cookies would be eaten daily from the day she baked them through NYE – at parties, gatherings, family dinners and casual nights at home by the fireplace.

There is one cookie that stood out to my brothers and me, our favorite, the Scotcharoo Candy Bars. So easy to make, yet so addictive. It is the perfect mix of sweet and crunchy, mixing one of my favorite pairings – peanut butter and chocolate. My mom used to put all the Christmas cookies into tins…. And this would always be the tin to become emptied first…. It is the tin that my brothers and I would visit the most, sneaking Scotcharoos throughout the day or just ‘one more’ for dessert. Fill up a glass of milk or cocoa and enjoy this delicious and super easy to make treat!

Scotcharoo Candy Bars

  • 12 oz Chocolate Chips
  • 12 oz Butterscotch Chips
  • 2-3 large spoonfuls of Peanut Butter
  • 8 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
  • White Chocolate, melted
  1. Melt the first three ingredients together and stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
  2. Gently stir in Rice Krispies until all combined.
  3. Pour into a large jelly roll pan lined with wax paper and then cover with two more pieces of wax paper. Use a rolling pin to flatten down the mixture. Put in refrigerator to cool.
  4. Spread melted white chocolate over when cool, if desired. Cut into bars.

Tyler Hafford – Not One but TWO Peanut Butter Cocktails

This holiday season I have a couple libations to help ease you into those snowy nights at home. They are perfect for sitting in the living room after you get the kids to sleep and watching the fireplace flicker.

The first drink is a Peanut Butter Whiskey Martini. This will be perfect for those Peanut Butter Cup lovers out there. You are going to start with a martini glass that you will dress up with chocolate syrup (chill the glass for an extra touch). Then in a shaker, fill with ice and pour in your desired amount of Peanut butter Whiskey (I usually prefer Screwball since they essentially put Peanut Butter Whiskey on the map), as well as an equal part of Chocolate Liquor. Shake vigorously and pour neat into your glass. Now, this may seem like you have everything you need, but to really top this off we are going to dig into that left over Halloween Candy and find a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, cut out a small sliver and use the rest to garnish the rim of our martini.

The second drink is a variation on a PB&J drink. This is for the person who likes a bit of a dessert drink but maybe not the biggest chocolate lover. For this simple recipe, you are going to take a rocks glass and add ice (just one big block if you are a hip millennial) and add two parts Disaronno and one part Peanut Butter Whiskey. Now, this may not seem very fancy, but sometimes it is the simple things in life that are the best. Before you sip, you take this drink to your favorite seat in the house, put your feet up and allow the stress of the Holidays to melt away.

Want more holiday cheer? Check out PFA’s 2022 Holiday Recipes!