Quick, Fast and Easy:
Rediscover the microwave and set your imagination on "High."
There's a workhorse sitting in your kitchen ready to deliver healthy, fast meals. So dust off that microwave oven and watch it make more than just popcorn and reheated leftovers. You'll be surprised with the results, especially when you're in a rush.Nuking rocks
For many university and college students, a microwave oven is a saving grace. Compact and odor-free, this appliance (especially if it's a dual convection oven/microwave) is all you need. But even fully stocked kitchens benefit from a quick-cooking microwave oven. Relying on less oil or fat than frying, microwaving is one of the healthiest ways to cook, provided it's done correctly.
Microwave cooking is not the same as using the oven or the stove-top. For example, it's generally faster than conventional methods, and food is cooked from the inside out. Here are some tips so you can maximize your microwave's potential:
- Always keep food covered when cooking in the microwave oven; this prevents splashing and spattering and keeps all-important moisture in.
- Food cooks best with a carousel platform. Rotation ensures even heating, and the platform lifts food off the oven floor allowing microwaves to penetrate from below.
- Be sure to place the cooking container in the middle of the oven.
- When foods are not uniform in shape, such as chicken breasts or fish fillets, arrange so that thin portions are towards the center of the dish.
- Only use cookware that is made for use in a microwave oven. Plastic storage containers, take-out containers and other one-time-use containers should not be used in a microwave oven.
- Do not cook large cuts of meat on high power (100 percent). They should be cooked on medium power (50 percent) for longer time periods.
- Cook red meats to a minimum temperature of 165°F and poultry to at least 180°F.
- Reheated microwave items should reach 165°F.
Stir and let stand
The key to successful microwave cooking is all in your spoon. Whether you're preparing vegetables, stews, soups or entrees, expect to hit the "pause" button several times throughout the cooking time to stir contents, ensuring even cooking. Most recipes call for a "standing period." Don't try to skip that, since foods cooked in a microwave oven are much hotter on the inside than they feel on the outside. They'll continue to cook for several minutes once removed from the oven.
Vegetables, when microwaved, can actually be better than for you than they are when cooked in other ways. They remain crisp, keep their color and lose fewer vitamins. Be sure to cut all your vegetables in equal-size pieces to ensure uniform cooking. Broccoli, carrots, beans, sweet bell peppers, new potatoes, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and green peas are all perfect contenders. You'll need about three tablespoons of water per pound of vegetables. Vegetables require different cooking times dependent on their density. When cooking a mix, put the thickest, hardest vegetables in the microwave first and add the less dense ones incrementally.
Quick, hot potato
Both regular potatoes and sweet potatoes are chock-full of nutrients. To microwave, simply scrub the potato clean, puncture with a fork once, place on waxed or parchment paper and cook on high for 5 minutes, adding 2 to 3 minutes to your cooking time for every extra potato (limit of four). Let stand 2 minutes and enjoy! But remember: Refrain from piling on loads of high-fat toppings. Instead, try a dollop of low-fat yogurt, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese or some salsa. Or make it a meal by blanketing that potato with chili.
Forget the frying pan and make a quick batch of quesadillas in the microwave. Place a single, large tortilla on a microwavable plate or a sheet of waxed paper, spread with salsa, sprinkle with low-fat cheese, add some shredded rotisserie chicken, cover with another tortilla and protect with another sheet of waxed paper. Microwave for 1 minute on high.
Get your omega-3s from fish done in your microwave. Place two wild salmon fillets in a shallow, microwavable dish, season with salt and pepper, add one crushed garlic clove and drizzle with a tablespoon each of olive oil, lemon juice and white wine. Cook on high for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are flaky. Let stand 2 minutes, then dig in.