Allentown’s ‘Cook With a Collar’ — With a Recipe for Soft Ginger Cookies

Father John Pendzick and two dozen other priests raised $220,000 for local parishes during the cooking event.

Father John Pendzick
Father John Pendzick (photo: Photo Provided)

Most Catholics, probably on the East Coast, will remember the exciting January 2021 Cooks with Collars contest in the Diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania. About two dozen priests participated with the intended goal of raising funds for local parish communities and Catholic Charities ministries in several counties. Their final reward? More than $220,000!

One of the participants was Father John Pendzick, then pastor of St. Elizabeth (now pastor of St. Thomas More in Allentown). He described his participation as both fun and a challenge, noting that several companies sponsored the virtual event that parishioners and others could watch online.

“I set up myself and did the cooking myself,” he said, “and the 8th-grade class was helping. One of the kids stole a cookie off the table when my back was turned. … My dog got the last cookie.” Viewers then voted and his own parish brought in $3,000 for the school’s kitchen.

How did he come up with that recipe? “I was inspired by a parishioner who really liked the recipe and gave it to me,” he said. “I tweaked it a bit. I made three batches, wrapped them in a plastic bag, and asked them to vote for me and to donate $10.”

Although Father Pendzick did not win a prize himself, he admitted that cooking was not his main skill. A native of Long Island, New York, and then raised in Allentown, Pennsylvania, he remembers his younger sister eating only a bowl of cereal for dinner. He finally fell in love with cooking when he went to St. Charles Seminary for both college and theology, and his sister pointed out to him he did not know how to prepare a recipe. 

“She got me a cookbook and pointed to the recipe for stuffed goose,” he said. “I told her I would figure out how to make the stuffing. And the local priest who lived in the rectory had a nice cook. I learned how to make meatloaf, lasagna and and Crab Imperial.”

Father noted that at his present rectory, the priests have someone who cooks four nights a week. But, he added, all his fellow priests love to cook. “We have an Indian priest,” he said, “and a part-time associate who likes Italian food and a retired priest who loves cooking.”

And why did he choose the priesthood? As he recalled, he went on a retreat with his classmates and was just going through the motions. But he noticed that his classmates really believed in God. On his third retreat, after he gave a talk on the Lost Sheep, he understood that it pertained to him to. And he decided to become a priest … now for 24 years.

“I am really blessed,” he said.

He noted that another Cooks with Collars competition is slated for January, but he is backing out so that his assistant can be making spaghetti sauce. But cooking remains a passion. As he noted, when he became the pastor of this new parish, he asked parishioners to sign up and come to the rectory for dinner, eight people at a time.

“It is a great way to get to know people,” he said. He recalled one lady telling him that she and her husband had not been out to dinner for years, but her husband said they could afford to go because it was dinner at the rectory.

Note: Click here to look back at the 2021 COOKS WITH COLLARS videos.


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Recipe — Soft Ginger Cookies

Father Pendizck says, “Eat before the assistant priest eats them all.”

Makes two dozen cookies. 


  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup molasses 
  • Little bowl of sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

In one bowl, mix together the first six ingredients. In a second bowl, beat the butter with the sugar, and add the eggs, water and molasses. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Form the dough into ping-pong-sized balls and roll in a small bowl of sugar. Then flatten them slightly on the baking sheet.

Bake for about 9 minutes and let them cool on the sheet for 5 minutes. Remove them from the sheet and cool completely.