Using a microwave for meal preparation streamlines your cooking process and helps you place food on the table more quickly. Meats, side dishes, desserts and breads are among the meal items that lend themselves to microwave cooking. Put your microwave to work to feed healthy food to your hungry family.
1. Meats and Entrees
Brown ground beef, stirring frequently to break up the meat as it cooks to use in tacos, chili and pasta dishes. Season the beef midway through the cooking process. Select chicken pieces that are all about the same size, arrange them in a single layer and spread creamy dressing on top. Microwave fish using the same technique, or sprinkle dried seasoning mix on before you put it in the microwave. Reheat casseroles, warm tortillas and melt cheese in the microwave. Always use a microwave-safe dish with a vented lid, or cover dishes with plastic wrap to seal moisture and heat inside as the entree cooks and to prevent spatters.
2. Side Dishes
Vegetables steam quickly in the microwave. Place fresh vegetables in a sturdy gallon-sized plastic storage bag with a little water and microwave them until they're still slightly crisp. Cook frozen vegetables in a covered container with a little water, broth or creamy dressing. Scrub baking potatoes and pierce the skin in a couple of places with a fork. If you're not a purist about steaming the potatoes instead of baking them, wrap them in a damp paper towel before cooking. Buy an inexpensive microwave rice steamer if your family enjoys rice sides several times a week.
Make muffins in the microwave by filling paper muffin tin liners half-full with batter. Place them in a microwave-safe muffin pan and cook for half the recommended baking time. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue microwaving the muffins until the centers of each muffin are almost set. Test the muffins by pressing lightly on the top, or by inserting a toothpick. The muffins will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven. Try converting a quick bread recipe to a microwave recipe by putting the batter in a Bundt pan rather than a loaf pan. This allows the bread to cook evenly. Microwave the bread at full power, rotating it once or twice, until the bread is almost completely set.
Cook cake batter in microwave-safe cake pan. When the center of the cake appears slightly moist, stop cooking and let the cake stand for a few minutes. Puddings and custards require fairly constant attention because they separate and burn quickly. Heat sliced berries in the microwave to serve on warm shortbread or poach pears in wine. Melt chocolate bars to make a rich topping that hardens on ice cream. The microwave makes quick work of spiced nuts -- simply toss walnuts or pecans with brown sugar and melted butter, and microwave until the nuts are coated.
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