BERNIE MASON For Lee Montana Newspapers
The extreme heat we have been experiencing this summer is forcing us to look for ways to save money on energy costs and to keep our homes cooler. Using the microwave for cooking meals is one way to do that. Cooking with the microwave uses 80% less energy than using the conventional oven or stove, which saves on the power bill. The microwave is good for many uses other than just reheating foods or popping popcorn. In the early ’80s, I presented many demonstrations on using the microwave, and people were surprised with its versatility. It can be used for baking bread or pies, roasting meats, cooking casseroles, and making jams and jellies. It is the best way to cook a white sauce or pudding without worrying about scorching the sauce. It is also a time and energy saver for making baked potatoes. Though the microwave may not brown foods the same way the oven would, it is easy to make them more appetizing. To give microwaved breads or cakes a crust-like appearance and help retain freshness, lightly grease the baking dish and sprinkle on some type of crushed crumbs for a coating. Sauces, such as Worcestershire or ketchup can be used to brush on the top of meats. Cakes or quick breads may have an uncooked batter on the bottom center. Elevating the dish by placing it on an inverted saucer will help for more even cooking. Because microwaves may have different wattage levels, the cooking time may vary. Always start with the least amount of time suggested in the recipe and add on more as needed.
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Meatloaves remain moister when microwaved, so this recipe does not contain any milk or water. If you wish to use a favorite recipe of your own, reduce the liquid by about half. Microwave by time, but use a thermometer to test for doneness (145 – 155). They should be firm to the touch on top. If using a round casserole dish for the meatloaf, a ring-shaped dish will cook more evenly. You can create one by placing a custard dish in the center of the casserole and placing the meatloaf mixture 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 topping)
Mix all ingredients except topping sauce together thoroughly. Decide what shape you wish to use for the meatloaf, loaf, round, or individual. Spread meatloaf mixture in dish. Top with sauce, if desired. Microwave at High power 12 – 18 minutes for round shape, 8 – 13 minutes for ring-shaped, 13 – 18 minutes for loaf, and 10 – 13 minutes for 6 individual meatloaves. Rotate half-way through cooking time if your microwave does not have a rotating turntable. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes to complete cooking and become firm. If desired you can also make a single serving of meatloaf. Press some of the meat mixture into a microwave-safe mug. Cover with waxed paper and microwave at 70% power (Medium-High) for 4 – 5 ½ minutes or until meat is firm, rotating mug halfway through the cooking time. Let stand 2 minutes.
Source: “Basic Microwaving.” Microwave Cooking Library, Barbara Methven
Save time and energy cost by using your microwave to cook casseroles. Rather than baking lasagna in the oven, use the microwave instead. This tuna casserole includes a variety of vegetables, and there is no need to boil noodles since it includes shoestring potatoes instead.
½ cup thinly sliced celery
1 (10¾ oz.) cream of mushroom soup
1 (6½ oz.) can chunk tuna, drained
½ package (5 oz.) frozen green peas
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 (1½ oz. each) cans shoestring potatoes, divided
Combine carrots, celery, and onion in a 2-quart casserole. Cover; microwave on High 3 to 4½ minutes, or until tender-crisp. Stir in soup, tuna, peas, soy sauce, and seasonings. Cover; microwave 4 to 6 minutes, or until thoroughly heated, stirring after half the cooking time. Stir in two thirds of the potatoes. Microwave 30 to 60 seconds. Sprinkle remaining potatoes and cashews over top.
Source: “Microholding Meal in 30 Minutes,” Microwave Cooking Library, Barbara Methvan.
Making muffins in the microwave is a big timesaver. A batch of six muffins can be done in around 5 minutes. Since the microwave draws moisture out of the food, it is recommended to use two paper liners in the muffin cups. Because the food continues to cook after it is removed from the microwave, remove the muffins or quick breads when the top is slightly moist. The muffin cups are not filled as full as they would be if baked in the oven, because the bread expands more in the microwave.
4 teaspoons baking powder
Mix together bran cereal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Mix together eggs, oil, and milk. Pour into dry ingredients. Stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Mixture should appear lumpy. Place 3 tablespoons batter into each paper-lined microwave muffin pan cup or ¼ cup in each paper-lined 6 oz. custard cup, 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 wish to cook them individually.) Turn dish or rearrange muffins halfway through cooking time. Remove muffins from pan immediately.
Source: “Tappan Microwave Cooking Guide.”
You don’t have to turn on your oven and heat up your kitchen to bake a cake. The microwave will take care of it for you in a matter of minutes and it tastes great!
1 cup finely shredded carrots
¼ cup finely chopped nuts
Select the dish to use for baking. A clear glass dish is preferable so you can check the bottom for doneness. Use a 9-inch round or an 8-inch square. No prep of the pan is necessary if you plan to serve the cake from the baking dish. Place all ingredients in mixing bowl. Blend at low speed, then beat at medium speed 2 minutes. Spread the batter in the prepared baking dish. Do not fill the dish more than ¼ to ½ full because of expansion while cooking. Microwave at 50% (Medium) 6 minutes, rotating ½ turn every 3 minutes. Increase power to High. Microwave 2 to 6 minutes, or until done. Let stand on countertop 5 to 10 minutes. Cool and frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting: In mixing bowl, combine 1 tablespoons butter or margarine, ½ package (4 oz. size) cream cheese, room temperature, and ½ tablespoon cream. Blend well. Beat in 1¼ to 1½ cups confectioner’s sugar until spreading consistency.
Source: “Microwave Cooking Baking and Desserts,” from Litton.
Bernie Mason writes the Local Flavor column for Lee Montana Newspapers. She was a Yellowstone County extension agent for 24 years. Mason grew up in Sidney in a family of German and Danish ancestry.