Easy microwave cooking | Food and cooking

BERNIE MASON For the Lee Montana papers

The extreme heat we’ve experienced this summer is forcing us to look for ways to save money on energy costs and keep our homes cooler. Using a microwave to cook food is one way to do this. Cooking with a microwave oven uses 80% less energy than using a regular oven or stove, saving on your electricity bill. The microwave is good for many uses other than just reheating food or popping popcorn. In the early 1980s, I gave many demonstrations of using a microwave oven, and people were surprised by its versatility. It can be used for baking bread or pies, roasting meat, cooking casseroles and making jams and jellies. This is the best way to cook a white sauce or pudding without worrying about burning the sauce. It also saves time and energy for making baked potatoes. Although a microwave oven may not brown foods the same way an oven would, it’s easy to make them more appetizing. To give microwave bread or pastries a crust-like appearance and help preserve freshness, lightly grease a baking dish and sprinkle with some type of crumble topping. Sauces such as Worcestershire or ketchup can be used to baste the top of the meat. Cakes or quick breads may have raw dough in the bottom center. Elevating the dish by placing it on an inverted saucer will help cook more evenly. Since microwave ovens can have different power levels, cooking times may vary. Always start with the least amount of time suggested in the recipe and add more if needed.

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Basic meatloaf

Meatloaf stays moister when microwaved, so this recipe does not contain milk or water. If you want to use your favorite recipe, reduce the liquid by half. Microwave on time, but use a thermometer to check for doneness (145 – 155). They should be firm to the touch on top. If you use a round casserole dish for the loaf, the ring dish will bake more evenly. You can make one by placing a plate of custard in the center of the casserole and placing the pizza mix around it.

1½ pounds lean ground beef

1/4 cup fine breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup, steak, barbecue, or chili sauce (for garnish)

Mix well all the ingredients except the topping sauce. Decide what shape you want to use for the loaf, loaf, round or individual. Spread the roll mixture on a plate. Top with sauce if desired. Microwave on high 12 – 18 minutes for round, 8 – 13 minutes for ring, 13 – 18 minutes for bread and 10 – 13 minutes for 6 individual meatloaves. Rotate halfway through the cooking time if your microwave does not have a turntable. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes to finish cooking and set. If desired, you can also make a single portion of a roll. Press some of the meat mixture into a microwave-safe cup. Cover with wax paper and microwave on 70% power (medium-high) for 4 – 5 ½ minutes or until meat is firm, rotating cup halfway through cooking time. Let stand for 2 minutes.

Source: “Basic Microwave Cooking”. Microwave Cooking Library by Barbara Methven

Tuna mix

Save time and energy costs by using your microwave to cook casseroles. Instead of baking lasagna in the oven, use the microwave. This Tuna Casserole includes a variety of vegetables and there’s no need to boil noodles as it includes potatoes instead.

½ cup finely chopped celery

1 (10¾ oz.) cream of mushroom soup

1 (6½ oz) can diced tuna, drained

½ package (5 ounces) frozen green peas

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

2 (1½ oz each) cans potatoes, divided

Combine carrots, celery and onion in a 2-quart casserole. Cover up; microwave on High 3 to 4½ minutes, or until crisp-tender. Stir in soup, tuna, peas, soy sauce, and seasonings. Cover up; microwave 4 to 6 minutes or until heated through, stirring halfway through cooking time. Stir in two-thirds of the potatoes. Microwave 30 to 60 seconds. Sprinkle the remaining potatoes and cashews on top.

Source: “Microwave Meal in 30 Minutes,” Microwave Cooking Library, Barbara Methvan.

Bran Muffins

Making muffins in the microwave saves a lot of time. A batch of six muffins can be made in about 5 minutes. Since the microwave takes the moisture out of the food, it is recommended to use two paper liners in the muffin cups. Since the food continues to cook after it is removed from the microwave, remove the muffins or quick breads when the tops are slightly moist. Muffin cups don’t get as full as they would if baked in the oven because the bread expands more in the microwave.

4 tablespoons of baking powder

Mix together cereal bran, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix together the eggs, oil and milk. Pour into the dry ingredients. Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. The mixture should look lumpy. Place 3 tablespoons of batter into each paper-lined microwave muffin pan cup or ¼ cup into each paper-lined 6-ounce cup. cup cream, or 7 oz. Styrofoam cup. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top. Microwave on medium-high (70%) until tester inserted near center comes out clean. (Each muffin will take about 30 seconds to 1 minute if you want to cook them individually.) Turn the pan or rearrange the muffins halfway through the cooking time. Immediately remove the muffins from the pan.

Source: “Tappan Microwave Cooking Guide.”

Carrot cake

You don’t need to turn on the oven and heat up the kitchen to bake a cake. The microwave will take care of you in minutes and it tastes great!

1 cup finely grated carrot

¼ cup finely chopped nuts

Choose the dish to use for baking. A clear glass dish is preferable so you can check the bottom for doneness. Use a 9-inch circle or an 8-inch square. No preparation of the pan is necessary if you plan to serve the cake from the baking dish. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Mix on low speed, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Spread the dough in the prepared baking dish. Do not fill the dish more than ¼ to ½, as it expands during cooking. Microwave at 50% (medium) 6 minutes, turning ½ turn every 3 minutes. Increase the power to High. Microwave 2 to 6 minutes or until done. Let sit on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes. Cool and frost with cream cheese.

Cream Cheese Frosting: In a mixing bowl, combine 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, ½ package (4-ounce size) room temperature cream cheese, and ½ tablespoon cream. Blend well. Beat in 1¼ to 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar until smooth.

Source: “Microwave Cooking and Desserts” by Litton.

Bernie Mason writes the local flavor column for the Lee Montana Newspapers. She was an extension agent for Yellowstone County for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sydney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.

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