One of the most stressful parts of the holidays is figuring out what food to serve your guests at parties — whether it's your party or someone else's.

If you're tired of bringing bags of chips or making grandma's Jell-O salad every year, CBC's Radio Active chef columnist Doreen Prei has you covered with a few quick ideas for any holiday gathering. 

Gougères

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • large pinch sea salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 90 g grated Swiss Gruyère cheese
  • pinch cayenne

What you'll need:

  • Two baking sheets, lightly oiled or lined with parchment paper

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F
  • Sift flour, cayenne and salt
  • Place water and butter in medium-size pan and heat slowly until butter melts, then turn up heat and bring to a boil, removing from heat at boiling point
  • Immediately beat in flour with a wooden spoon. Continue beating vigorously until mixture comes away from sides of pan
  • Transfer paste to bowl, then beat in eggs one at a time, beating vigorously after each addition of egg until fully incorporated
  • Beat in ½ cup of grated cheese
  • Pipe or spoon mixture onto prepared baking trays, forming two-inch mounds, two inches apart
  • Sprinkle remaining ¼ cup of cheese on top, then bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown

The ingredients make between 30-36 gougères. 

Caramelized onion tart

Ingredients:

  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large onions, sliced
  • 200 g goat cheese
  • 1 tbsp whipping cream
  • truffle oil
  • tarragon leaves, picked and chopped
  • lemon juice to taste
  • 1 sliced puff pastry

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 375°F
  • In large pot, melt butter with oil then add onions
  • Cook, stirring, over medium-high heat. Season with salt to taste
  • Continue cooking onions over medium to low heat, stirring frequently until nicely caramelized, about 20-30 minutes
  • Take a piece of chilled puff pastry and place on parchment-lined baking tray. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until risen, golden and cooked through, then allow to cool
  • Place goat cheese in stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add the cream, tarragon and truffle oil to taste and whip until creamy. Season with lemon juice and salt
  • Spread the caramelized onions on cooked puff pastry 
  • Scatter goat cheese on the tart
  • Bake in preheated oven, just to warm through and melt cheese
  • Slice into portions and serve.

Cheese fritters

Ingredients:

  • 500 g ricotta cheese
  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 10 leaves fresh basil, chopped
  • 60 g parmesan, grated
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 90 g flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Frying oil

Method:

  • Combine all ingredients, add flour gently last and form ball or quenelles
  • Deep fry at 360°F until golden brown
Doreen Prei

Each week, chef Doreen Prei joins Radio Active to share some of her best cooking and food tips. (Supplied)

Tomato orange jam

Ingredients:

  • 8 tomatoes, halved
  • 3 oranges, juiced
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • chili flakes
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • olive oil

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 450°F
  • Place tomatoes and sliced red onion on parchment-lined baking tray and toss with olive oil, orange juice, salt, pepper and chili flakes
  • Roast in preheated oven until tender, around 40 minutes
  • Place in pot and cook to reduce

Pan-seared duck breasts

Ingredients:

  • 4 duck breasts, cleaned and trimmed, skin-scored
  • kosher salt and black pepper

Red currant pan sauce:

  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 50 ml brandy
  • 1 cup red currants
  • 3 orange zest pieces
  • sprig of thyme
  • 75 g cold unsalted butter, diced
  • honey and lemon juice to taste
  • sea salt

Method for duck:

  • Preheat oven to 425°F
  • Heat cast iron pan over medium heat, then sear duck breasts skin side down without crowding the pan until skin is golden and fat has rendered
  • Transfer to preheated oven for approximately 5 minutes until cooked (breasts should still be pink)
  • Remove from pan and rest while making a pan sauce

Method for pan sauce:

  • While duck is resting, pour off excess duck fat, then sweat the shallots together with thyme and orange zest until shallot is softened
  • Turn up heat and deglaze with brandy, then add red currants
  • Cook until red currants break down and reduce
  • Season to taste with salt, honey and lemon juice, then finish with cold, diced butter

Truffled butternut squash soup

Ingredients: 

  • 300 g squash, washed and diced
  • 65 g butter
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • salt
  • 300 ml vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • 150 ml cream
  • 75 g parmesan, shredded
  • truffle oil to taste

Method:

  • In medium-heated pot, melt butter with oil
  • Add squash and season with salt
  • Cook gently until soft
  • Cover with stock and cream and bring to a boil (you may have to add more stock, depending on how creamy the squash is)
  • Puree when soft and add parmesan cheese
  • Finish with truffle oil
Food KitchenWise Apricot Almond Coffee Cake

Prei says almond cake would be a huge hit to your holiday parties. (The Associated Press)

Almond cake

Ingredients:

  • 600 g brown butter 
  • 600 g sugar
  • 480 g egg whites 
  • 460 g flour 
  • 200 g almond meal 
  • 40 g rum
  • 40 g honey
  • pinch salt 
  • 1 vanilla pod, scraped 

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Whisk together almond meal, vanilla and flour. Add nut butter slowly, then honey and rum
  • In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites with sugar and salt until stiff
  • Fold mix slowly into flour mix then pour into a cake tin and bake at 350°F until set
  • Brush a little almond syrup on cake

Spiced dark chocolate Popsicles

Ingredients:

  • 500 ml cream
  • 250 g dark chocolate
  • pinch salt
  • sugar to taste
  • pinch allspice
  • pinch cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 cardamom pods 

What you'll need:

  • Anti-griddle food freezer
  • Empty squeezable bottle

Method:

  • Combine all ingredients in pot and gently bring to boil, whisking gently
  • Once chocolate is melted, check for sugar seasoning. Take off heat for 10 minutes and then strain through sieve
  • Cool down on an ice bath then fill squeeze bottle with mixture and use anti-griddle to make Popsicles

Doreen Prei is on Radio Active every Thursday at 4:40 p.m. Listen to Radio Active with host Portia Clark, weekday afternoons on CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM/740 AM in Edmonton. Follow the show on Twitter: @CBCRadioActive.