BERNIE MASON For the Lee Montana newspapers
The extreme heat we are experiencing this summer is forcing us to look for ways to save on energy costs and to keep our homes cooler. Using the microwave to cook meals is one way to do this. Cooking with the microwave consumes 80% less energy than using a conventional oven or stove, which saves on your electricity bill. The microwave is good for many uses beyond just heating food or popping popcorn. In the early 1980s, I presented a lot of demonstrations on the use of the microwave and people were surprised by its versatility. It can be used for baking bread or cakes, roasting meats, baking casseroles and making jams and jellies. It’s the best way to cook a bechamel or pudding without worrying about burning the sauce. It is also a time and energy saver for making baked potatoes. While microwaving may not brown food in the same way it does oven, it’s easy to make it more palatable. To give microwaved bread or cakes a crust-like appearance and help maintain freshness, lightly grease the baking sheet and sprinkle it over some kind of chopped crumbs to coat. Sauces, such as Worcestershire or ketchup, can be used to brush the top of meats. Quick cakes or breads can have raw batter in the middle bottom. Elevating the dish by placing it on an inverted saucer will help for more even cooking. Since microwaves can have different power levels, cooking time can vary. Always start with the shortest time suggested in the recipe and add more as needed.
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Meatloafs stay moist when reheated in the microwave, so this recipe contains neither milk nor water. If you want to use your favorite recipe, reduce the liquid by about half. Microwave on time, but use a thermometer to check cooking (145 – 155). They should be firm to the touch on top. If you use a round saucepan for the meatloaf, a ring-shaped dish will cook more evenly. You can create one by placing a baking dish in the center of the saucepan and laying the meatloaf mixture around it.
1 ½ pounds of lean ground beef
1/4 cup of fine bread crumbs
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup, steak, barbecue or chili sauce (for garnish)
Mix all the ingredients well except the topping sauce. Decide which shape you want to use for the meatloaf, loaf, round or single. Spread the meatloaf mixture into the pan. Garnish with the sauce if desired. High power microwave 12 – 18 minutes for the round shape, 8 – 13 minutes for the ring shape, 13 – 18 minutes for the loaf and 10 – 13 minutes for 6 individual meatballs. Turn halfway through cooking time if your microwave does not have a turntable. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes to complete cooking and become firm. If you want you can also make a single portion of meatloaf. Press some of the meat mixture into a microwave-safe cup. Cover with baking paper and microwave at 70% power (Medium-High) for 4 – 5 ½ minutes or until the meat is firm, turning the cup halfway through cooking. Leave to rest for 2 minutes.
Source: “Basic Microwave Cooking”. Microwave Kitchen Library, Barbara Methven
Save time and energy costs by using the microwave to cook casseroles. Instead of baking lasagna in the oven, use the microwave instead. This tuna casserole includes a variety of vegetables and there is no need to boil the noodles as it includes cheap potatoes instead.
½ cup of thinly sliced celery
1 (10¾oz) cream of mushroom soup
1 can (6½ ounces) of chopped tuna, drained
½ pack (5 ounces) of frozen peas
1 teaspoon of parsley flakes
1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon of black pepper
2 cans (1 ½ oz. Each) of French fries, divided
Combine the carrots, celery and onion in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover; microwave at maximum power for 3 to 4½ minutes or until tender and crunchy. Add the soup, tuna, peas, soy sauce and seasonings. Cover; microwave for 4 to 6 minutes, or until completely heated, stirring after half the cooking time. Combine two thirds of the potatoes. Microwave from 30 to 60 seconds. Sprinkle over the remaining potatoes and cashews.
Source: “Microwave Meal in 30 Minutes”, Microwave Cooking Library, Barbara Methvan.
Making muffins in the microwave is a big time saver. A batch of six muffins can be made in about 5 minutes. Since the microwave absorbs moisture from the food, it is recommended to use two paper cups in the muffin cups. Since food continues to cook even after taking it out of the microwave, remove muffins or quick breads when the surface is slightly damp. The muffin cups are not as full as if they were baked in the oven, because the bread expands more in the microwave.
4 teaspoons of baking powder
Mix together the cereal bran, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Mix the eggs, oil and milk. Pour into the dry ingredients. Stir only until the dry ingredients are moistened. The mixture should appear lumpy. Put 3 tablespoons of batter into each paper-lined microwave muffin pan or ¼ cup into each paper-lined 6 oz. cup of custard or 7 oz. Polystyrene cup. Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top. Microwave on Medium-High (70%) until the tester inserted near the center comes out clean. (Each muffin will take 30 seconds to 1 minute if you wish to bake them individually.) Turn the plate or rearrange the muffins halfway through cooking. Immediately remove the muffins from the pan.
Source: “Tappan Microwave Cooking Guide”.
It is not necessary to turn on the oven and heat the kitchen to bake a cake. The microwave will take care of you in minutes and it tastes great!
1 cup finely chopped carrots
¼ cup of finely chopped walnuts
Select the dish to use for cooking. A clear glass dish is preferable so that you can check the cooking of the bottom. Use a 9-inch round or an 8-inch square. No baking is required if you plan to serve the cake from the baking sheet. Put all the ingredients in the mixing bowl. Blend on low speed, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Do not fill the pan more than ¼ or ½ full due to expansion during cooking. Microwave at 50% (Medium) 6 minutes, turning by ½ turn every 3 minutes. Increase the power to High. Microwave 2 to 6 minutes or until cooked. Let it sit on the counter for 5 to 10 minutes. Cool and glaze with the cream cheese glaze.
Cream Cheese Glaze: In the bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine, ½ pack (4 ounces) of cream cheese, room temperature, and ½ tablespoon of cream. Mix well. Whisk 1¼ to 1½ cups of powdered sugar until smooth.
Source: “Microwave cooking and desserts”, by Litton.
Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana newspapers. He was a Yellowstone County Extension Agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish descent.