Festive Holiday Recipes to Bring Comfort and Joy

by | Dec 2022

Advisory board member Laura Bray making traditional German Pfeffernüsse cookies.

Photos: Chris Emeott

Editorial Advisory Board members share their favorite holiday recipes.

Can we agree that food is a jack-of-all trades, of sorts? It can be the salve the heals and comforts what ails our bodies and souls, the tie that binds and connects us through generations and the initiator of great joy among friends and family.

While many of us have our favorite dishes, is anyone else a little curious about what everyone else is serving family and guests this holiday season?

We decided to pull back the kitchen curtains to take a glimpse at what some members of our Editorial Advisory Board (and me!) are making, baking and cooking up this year. We asked for recipes that bring comfort, joy or both!

Egg Surprise

“This is something we have always enjoyed as a family breakfast on holidays when I was growing up, and we still make it every Christmas. My grandma got this recipe from her neighbor 50 years ago. It is a great recipe to make ahead and heat up in the morning. I hope the readers enjoy it as much as our family does.” —Jenny Bodurka, assistant director, Minnetonka Community Education

  • 16 oz. of breakfast sausage (We us pork sausage.)
  • 16 eggs
  • 7 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ loaf of bread (We use sourdough.)

Cut bread into cubes, and let it sit out overnight to harden. Cook breakfast sausage, drain off the grease and set aside. Scramble the eggs, and set aside. Melt 3 Tbsp. butter, and mix with bread cubes; set aside for the casserole topping. Create a roux by whisking 4 Tbsp. butter and 3 Tbsp. flour in a saucepan over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Once the mixture thickens, add 2 cups of milk; continue to cook until it thickens. Add shredded cheese to the roux, and stir until it is melted. Combine eggs, sausage and cheese sauce in a large bowl, and place into a 9 x 12 baking dish. Top the casserole with cubed bread. Bake at 350 F. for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese mixture is bubbling.

Kiss Cookies

“Growing up, Kiss Cookies were always placed on Santa’s plate in hopes that the holiday spirit and warmth of some extra kisses would win us exactly what my siblings and me had on our Christmas wish list. I don’t remember a holiday season without Kiss Cookies. My mother usually doubles or sometimes triples this recipe. It’s the perfect cookie to freeze and package them up for friends, family and neighborsas they visit. They’re everyone’s favorite!” —Brooke Beyer, director of community events and marketing, Wayzata Area Chamber

  • 48 chocolate candy kisses
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar (packed)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Heat the oven to 375 F. Remove wrappers from kisses. In a large bowl, beat butter and peanut butter until well blended. Add sugar and brown sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to peanut butter mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in granulated sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately top each cookie with a chocolate candy, pressing down firmly so that cookie cracks around edges. Remove from baking sheets to racks to cool. Makes four dozen cookies.

Potato, Corn and Kraut Gratin

“While it’s neither fancy nor trendy, this dish is present on our Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas tables without question. This gratin is the epitome of comfort food: Creamy butter-mashed potatoes, studded with sweet corn kernels and the unmistakable umami of kraut. I’ve enjoyed them all together on my plate for as long as I can remember, but it was time for an update. I grew up in a German farm family. Gathering around the table to enjoy meals together was always a priority—especially around the holidays.

“The matriarchs in my family have always been incredible cooks, who outdid themselves for the holidays. They built their traditional tables around well-loved dishes that provided the perfect foundation for our big family dinners, and I do my best to carry on that tradition.

“No matter what other mains or sides show up, three dishes are always present for our family: mashed potatoes with butter, sweet corn and sour kraut. (That’s how my family referred to it. Today, it’s more commonly known as sauerkraut.)

“I hold my grandmother’s homemade kraut responsible for shaping my palate. When she was no longer here to make it, there was a noticeable void in our dinners. When I started hosting family dinners of my own, I wanted to bring that traditional flavor back and always make sure good kraut is on the menu.” —Michele Phillips, blogger, writer and photographer

  • 5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled cubed and rinsed
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, plus 2 Tbsp. at room temp, divided
  • 32 oz. Frank’s Kraut, drained with 1/3 cup reserved
  • 14 oz. fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels, thawed with 1/3 cup reserved
  • ½ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. salt and more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, optional

For the Potatoes

Prepare mashed potatoes your favorite way. Otherwise, this is how I make them: Fill a large pot approximately half way with cold water. Scrub and peel potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes, and put cubes into the pot of cold water. When all the potatoes are cubed and in the water, swish them around, and pour out the cloudy water. Replace with fresh water, and repeat 4–5 times, until water is mostly clear. Then add enough fresh water to cover the potatoes, and add 1 Tbsp. of salt. Place pot over medium-high flame, and boil until potato cubes are tender. Drain, add 6 Tbsp. of butter to the hot potatoes, and mash until mostly smooth. Cover, and keep warm.

Preheat oven to 250 F.

For the Panko Breadcrumbs

In a small sauce pan, add 2 Tbsp. butter over medium-low heat. Allow butter to brown slightly. Add garlic powder, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste (optional), and stir well. Add breadcrumbs, and stir, making sure the butter is completely incorporated into the crumbs. Continue to toast the crumbs over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from flame, and set aside.

For the Kraut Gratin

To the pot with the mashed potatoes, add (thawed) corn and (drained) kraut. Stir well to combine. Spoon mixture into an oven-safe, covered casserole dish. Layer the shredded cheeses, reserved corn and kraut over the top. Top liberally with the toasted bread crumbs, and place into heated oven for about 10 minutes or until cheese is nicely melted. Cover the casserole dish to keep kraut gratin warm in oven until serving.


Laura Bray

“A very important Christmas cookie recipe to me is Pfeffernüsse. My mother would make it every year. She learned how to make them from her mother, Augusta Harjehausen, who came over from Germany when she was 15 years old. My mom remembers my grandmother dropping a couple of these little cookies into her coffee at Christmastime. It has a strong anise flavor, which I love. There are a few variations of this cookie. Some call for black pepper and cardamom. This cookie will always be my favorite Christmas cookie and continues to bring fond memories of my mother and grandmother whenever I make them.”
—Laura Bray, board member, Friends of the Excelsior Library

Pfeffernüsse cookies served with coffee.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 6 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp of anise oil (not anise extract)

Cream together the sugar and the butter. Mix eggs, corn syrup, molasses, water and baking soda; add to creamed butter and sugar. To the flour, add spices, and gradually add to creamed mixture. Add anise oil to mixture, and mix well. Roll the dough into long slender rolls, ½ inch in diameter. Chill or freeze overnight. Slice rolls in 1/3-inch pieces. Place cut side down on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 F. for about eight minutes. Do not over bake.

Toffee Bars

“I’m sharing my mom’s Toffee Bar recipe, which she learned from my grandma and has been making since she was 11 or 12! They’re a staple on our family’s holiday cookie plate, and they’re also delicious year-round. We customize them for different celebrations using different sprinkles.” —Mary Cornelius, communications specialist, Minnetonka Schools


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Mix all ingredients together with hands, and spread on a jelly roll pan ¼-inch thick. Bake at 350 F. for 15-20 minutes. After removing from the oven, cover the bars entirely with chocolate icing, and sprinkle with finely-chopped nuts (or sprinkles!). Slice, and serve.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 oz. unsweetened baker’s chocolate
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Bring all the ingredients (but the vanilla) to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute. Cool. Add the vanilla, and beat until creamy.

Editor’s Pick:

Root Beer Float Cookies

“I added these sweeties to my Christmas cookie lineup about 10 years ago, and they continue to be a favorite among my cookie-loving crew. While they don’t top my list—though I don’t pass them by on my oft trips around the cookie platter—I love them because my kids love them, and they evoke summertime memories for all of us. My dad, who always loved root beer, used to have a lake-night tradition with my kids at our family cabin “Up North.” After several competitive rounds of the card game Wizard, he’d fold his cards and stand up from the table. That was the signal that it was time to put down the deck, stop keeping score and take a pause for a treat—Poppa’s Root Beer Floats, made extra special with his secret ingredient—an ice cube dropped into the glass just before the vanilla ice cream scoops entered the scene. Don’t ask me why, but that icy addition makes the floats that much better. And these dense and flavor-filled cookies allow the root beer to be the King of the Deck.” —Renée Stewart-Hester, editor

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. root beer extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 cups all-purpose flower
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ¼ tsp. salt


(I double this recipe.)

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. half-and-half
  • 2 tsp. butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. root beer extract (I use more as a flavor boost.)

Heat the oven to 375 F. Lightly grease the cookies sheets. In a large mixing bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended. Add final three ingredients, and beat at low speed until soft dough forms. Drop dough by heaping teaspoons about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Cool. Mix frosting ingredients, and beat at low speed until smooth. Frost cookies, and cool before storing.


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