|Randa Sweet, Cooks Corner (Photos: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
Making holiday party hors d'oeuvres from scratch makes us a feel good about ourselves. It shows we deem our guests worthy of a little extra effort at this busiest time of the year.
This week's Cook's Corner offers the chance to feel good in another way: by supporting the little guy instead of the giant retail conglomerate, and buying locally produced and sold ingredients.
Area entrepreneur Randa Sweet has dreamed up recipes for Charming Cherry Kissed Baked Brie and an intriguing party sausage dipped in a sauce that cleverly combines flavors of chocolate, peanut butter, cinnamon and sweet balsamic vinegar.
Each recipe makes use of one of several sauces that Sweet created and now sells in stores all over Ohio.
"I was doing a demo at Beeker's General Store (in Pemberville) this past Saturday," said Sweet, "and Todd Sheets, the owner, suggested" some of her recipes should be shared with Sentinel-Tribune readers.
The secret ingredient in the party sausage is Sweet Louise Pampering Chocolate Peanut Butter, which Sweet produces "right here in Bowling Green, at the Ag Incubator on Route 582."
"This chocolate sauce is the first thing I made for my boyfriend that lit him up, and now he's my husband," so she figures that says something about how good it is.
"He helps me when we make a batch and when we do the food shows," including the annual Foodways Expo at Bowling Green's Woodland Mall.
Her other two products in the two-year-old Sweet Louise line are Charming Cherry Kiss Multi-Purpose Preserves and Sweet Louise Soothing Apple Cinnamon.
"The chocolate-peanut butter sauce was the first of the three. I had just whipped it up for myself" long before she thought of going commercial with it.
"I had been a kitchen designer for 20 years" when she decided it was time for a different career. She joined WEN, the Toledo-based Women's Entrepreneurial Network, for inspiration.
"At my very first meeting a lady stood up and talked about this kitchen you could rent" to produce commercial-size batches of food products.
"I knew immediately this was what I was meant to do."
Trial and error followed, as both she and the Ag Incubator kitchen got on their feet. Sweet sold the first jar of her sauce at the Perrysburg Farmer's Market in June 2006.
"Very shortly after, I got into Kazmaier's and Bassetts" supermarkets in Perrysburg. Since then, she has placed the Sweet Louise product line in Stimmel's Market in Bowling Green as well as at Beeker's and Frobose Meats in Pemberville, at Sauder's, Churchill's, and as far afield as Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati and Lehman's in Kidron, in Ohio Amish country.
The Sweet Louise name is a mellifluous combination of her husband's last name, of course, and her cat's name, which is "Louise."
Today, in a single day's work at the Ag Incubator, the Sweets with three or four helpers will produce 40 to 60 cases of the chocolate sauce. Each case amounts to a gallon of sauce and the spacious kitchen allows them to cook 20 gallons at a time.
Sweet is working hard to get the word out about her sauces, and the more than a dozen recipes she has developed to showcase them.
"The Pampering Party Sausage is a wonderfully tasty and unique snack for a holiday open house or football game."
The cherry sauce, she said, "is fabulous with duck," and a perfect combination with the brie tucked inside a dough pocket of crescent style rolls.
She has a hint for those who make the baked brie: "A lot of people don't know you don't have to cut off the white rind when you remove the paper from the brie. You can eat the rind."
Everybody wants something "really tasty and different to take to the holiday parties," concluded Sweet, who loves getting up a big celebration. "I can assure you these dishes are delicious."
For a look at Sweet's other recipes, visit her website at www.sweetlouisesauces.com
Pampering Party Sausage
2 lbs. Smoked Sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 9 oz. jar Sweet Louise Pampering Chocolate Peanut Butter
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 T. butter
1 cup Sweet Balsamic Vinegar (or slightly more to taste)
1/4 -1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Brown sausage slices and set aside.
Cook onion in butter until soft.
Stir in Sweet Louise sauce, vinegar and cinnamon
Add sausage slices and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, for flavors to blend.
* This is an easy recipe to make ahead and re-heat.
Charming Cherry Kissed Baked Brie
1 (8 oz.) can of refrigerated crescent style rolls
1 (8 oz.) round of Brie cheese
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 (9 oz.) jar of Charming Cherry Kiss Multi-Purpose Preserves
Heat oven to 350. Unroll dough and break crosswise into 2 halves. Place first half of dough on an un-greased cookie sheet, pinch seams to seal and press into a square.
Slice Brie in half horizontally, place 1st round on center of dough square, spread 1/4-1/2 cup of Charming Cherry Kiss on Brie, and top with remaining round.
On waxed paper press remaining dough into a square and seal seams. Cut off corners to form a smaller square and 4 little triangles, set aside.
Place dough square over Brie placing the corners of the upper piece in between the corners of the lower piece, and smooth down evenly around cheese.
Gently fold bottom corners up over top and stretch as needed to cover evenly and seal completely.
Roll triangles into little crescent rolls and place on top, brush all over with egg.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 15 minutes.
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