One of the main reasons that we like microwave cooking is that we can cook delicious meals with little or no fat. A 4-ounce (120 g) boneless, skinless chicken breast half cooks to juicy perfection in 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Before cooking, rinse the chicken, blot with paper towels, sprinkle the chicken lightly with mixed Italian herbs and wrap in microwave-safe plastic wrap. At the same time, you can cook a mix of thinly sliced onion and a few julienne strips of red and green bell peppers plus a quartered small red potato in 5 minutes.
Add about 5 minutes for the pre-microwaving preparation time, and you have dinner done in 10 minutes — all on the same plate, if you like. (If cooking on one plate, start the vegetables and potato first and add the chicken after 2 1/2 minutes. Instant portion control with no tempting leftovers and only a plate, a chopping board, a sharp knife, and eating utensils to wash! Exchanges equal 4 very lean meat, 1 carbohydrate (1 bread/starch), and 1 vegetable.
Another time, you can do an instant “taco” salad dinner that makes 4 servings. First, crumble 1 pound (480 g) ground turkey in a microwave-safe colander set over a casserole dish. Microwave on HIGH for 5 minutes. Discard fat drippings and wipe out the casserole.
Turn the cooked turkey into the casserole and stir in 1/2 cup (80 g) chopped onion, 1 cup (130 g) chopped zucchini, 1/2 tablespoon (7.5 ml) Mexican seasoning (if not available at your market, you can substitute 1 1/4 teaspoons (6.25 ml) chili powder and a 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) ground cumin), 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon (1.25) freshly ground pepper, and 1/2 cup (120 ml) purchased taco sauce. Microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes. Spread 4 cups (224 g) shredded iceberg lettuce on a platter. Spoon hot turkey-vegetable mixture over the lettuce and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons (21 g) low-fat sharp cheddar cheese. Exchanges per serving will equal 3 very lean meat and 1 vegetable.
- Keep in mind, that as in any type of cooking, top quality ingredients will always produce superior results. Make sure you shop carefully, choosing the best and freshest ingredients available and that you can afford.
- Since there is little evaporation in microwave cooking, food cooks in very little water — only a tablespoon or two is needed for vegetables.
- Food continues to cook after the microwave turns off whether it’s left in the oven or removed. Let the cooked food stand for about 1/3 of the original cooking time before serving.
- Rotate the dish midway during the cooking time if your oven doesn’t have a turntable. Even if it does, stir the food and rearrange it, turning large food items over. This helps the food to cook evenly.
- Arrange food so that the thinnest part of the food (i.e. chicken breast, fish fillets) is in the center and the thickest part toward the outside. Fold under the thin edges of fish fillets and other tapered food to cook more evenly.
- Salt on the surface of food attracts microwaves, drying out the surface. If using, either stir it in or better yet (we’re all watching our salt, anyway), sprinkle with a salt substitute after cooking.
- The recipes were tested on HIGH or full power at 650 to 700 watts in a carousel microwave using microwave-safe containers. Since microwave ovens vary significantly by manufacturer and model, you’ll need to determine the power of your own oven from the manufacturer’s instruction manual. If your microwave is less or more powerful (the newer models are 800 to 900 watts), add or deduct 15 seconds per minute per 100 watts of power difference. Watch the dish carefully, and be sure to rotate the dish occasionally while cooking, if your oven does not have a carousel.
- Not all china, glass, plastic, and paper products are microwave-safe as we specify for in all of our recipes. Only use paper plates and towels and plastic wraps and bags that say microwave-safe. Never use a brown paper bag or newspaper in a microwave. It may catch on fire. To determine if a particular dish is usable, we like the test suggested in Microwave Cooking Handbook by the International Microwave Power Institute of Clifton, Virginia:
“Place a glass measuring cup with 1/2 cup water in the microwave oven. Set the dish to be tested near the measuring cup, but not touching. Microwave on HIGH (100 percent) power for one minute. If the dish is cool or slightly warm to the touch, the dish is acceptable for microwave cooking. The water (in the measuring cup) should be quite warm or hot. If the dish is hot, do not use it in a microwave.”
- Never operate an empty microwave oven.
- A microwave oven must be kept clean for best efficiency. If something splatters, clean the microwave before using. Refer to your owner’s operation manual as to how to best clean your microwave.
- When reheating something liquid such as soup, stir before, during, and after reheating.
- Be careful to not overcook. Check food at the minimum time, then cook more if necessary. You can always add more cooking time, but like a food processor, once you pass the optimum time, you can’t take the time away.