Restaurant Favorites … Made at Home

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By Marianne Weaver

In the blink of an eye, COVID-19 changed everything: the way we socialize, the places we shop and even  how we feed our families.

On Monday, March 23, when Virginia Governor Ralph Northam banned all public events with more than 10 people, essentially shutting down all eat-in restaurants and bars in an attempt to reduce the potential spread of COVID-19, residents withdrew into their homes, adhering to the quarantine and a “new normal,” which included more home-cooked meals.

Three meals a day, seven days a week … Anna Tjoumas with Pampered Chef offered some suggestions for a few memorable — yet very doable — recipes.

APPETIZER: Brown Sugar-Dijon Brie

“This is a perfect easy appetizer for any occasion,” said Tjoumas. “I would suggest using a piece of stoneware to place the brie in the middle and surrounded by the sliced baguette so that everything cooks at the same time in under 10 minutes.”

• ½ cup sliced almonds, divided
• ½ cup packed brown sugar
• 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 4″ (10-cm) round (8 oz./250 g) brie cheese with rind, room temperature
• 1 loaf (16 oz) French baguette
• Vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Coarsely chop ¼ cup of the almonds. Combine the chopped almonds, sugar and mustard; mix well.

Cut the brie in half horizontally. Place half of the brie, cut-side up, in the center of the round stoneware. Spread half of the sugar mixture evenly over the bottom half of the brie. Top with the
other half of the brie, cut-side up. Spread the remaining sugar mixture over the brie and sprinkle with the remaining almonds.

Use the bread knife to cut the baguette on a bias into 24 quarter-inch slices. Arrange the slices around the brie and spritz them with oil.

Bake for eight to 10 minutes, or until the baguette slices are golden brown and the brie begins to soften. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before serving.

Tjoumas said camembert cheese can be used instead of brie, and plain buttery crackers can replace the bread.

MAIN: Tuscan Spaghetti

Tjoumas picked up this recipe a few years ago from a fellow Pampered Chef consultant who previously owned a restaurant. “This is a restaurant-quality meal that feeds quite a few people. It’s an impressive meal that comes together quickly and doesn’t take a lot of time to cook,” she said. “We have adapted for use in
our Quick Cooker (pressure cooker) where everything is done in a matter of 20 minutes.”

• 2 large chicken breasts
• 1 medium onion
• 4-5 cloves fresh garlic
• 3/4 cup Chardonnay wine
• 1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
• 1 lb. box spaghetti or linguini
• 4-5 cups chicken broth or stock
• Salt and pepper
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 4 oz. chunk fresh Parmesan cheese
• 1 lb. bacon, cooked crisp, then crumbled
• 1 8 oz. bag fresh baby spinach
• 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced thin

Pressure Cooker Directions
Slice chicken breasts into thin strips.
Slice medium onion, then quarter the onions.
Peel and slice four cloves of garlic.
Add 2 tbsp. of olive oil to pot. Add chicken, onions and garlic and sauté for three minutes, stirring constantly.
Add 3/4 cup of white wine to deglaze the pot. Stir.
Add 1 lb. of spaghetti broken in half, 4 cups of chicken broth or stock, and the can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir all together.
Lock and set the pressure cooker on the custom or manual setting for five minutes.
Grate 1 cup of Parmesan cheese, set aside.
Cook bacon, then crumble.
Manually release the pressure. Cancel, then set to sear and add 1 cup of heavy cream, and 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Stir and cook until bubbly and thickened (three to four minutes). If the pasta is thick, add a bit more stock to make it creamy.
Add one bag of spinach to the pasta and stir in until wilted. Add half of the crumbled bacon. Stir in some chopped basil, leaving some for garnish.

Turn off the pressure cooker, pour pasta into a bowl, grate cheese on top, and sprinkle with remaining bacon and basil.

“Use plenty of fresh basil at the end and a good block of Parmesan cheese,” she said. “I do not buy pre-shredded cheese because they contain preservatives. Buy the block and grate it yourself with our microplane.”

DESSERT: Chocolate Peanut Butter Molten Lava Cake

“This is a great easy dessert that comes together easily and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare,” said Tjoumas. “I always serve it with fresh whipped cream made in our Whipped Cream Maker. No Cool Whip, as that contains chemicals. Ice cream is a good option as well.”

• 1 pkg (16.5 oz./432 g) devil’s food cake mix
• 2 eggs
• ½ cup oil
• 1¼ cups water
• 1 cup creamy peanut butter
• 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
• Optional: vanilla ice cream

Combine the cake mix, eggs, oil and water in a Dutch oven.
Add peanut butter to the cake mix. Add the chocolate chips.
Gently stir the ingredients into the cake mix.
Microwave, covered, for nine to 11 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it stand, covered, for five minutes.
Scoop the cake out with a large spoon. Serve with ice cream, if desired.

Marianne E. Weaver ( is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University.



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