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Get cookin’
Tips for cooking in a microwave:
•Arrange food items evenly on plate, with liquid if needed. Cover dish with loosened lid or plastic wrap so steam can escape.
•Cook large cuts of meat on medium power (50 percent) for longer periods rather than high power (100 percent) for shorter periods. This allows the center of the meat to cook without burning the outside of the meat.
•Stir or rotate food halfway through cooking to help eliminate cold spots.
•Use a food thermometer to make sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature. Allow standing time before checking the temperature. This lets the food finish cooking.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture
Photo illustration by Christy Keller | The Journal

Meals in a zap

Microwave good for more than popcorn, food experts say

When Ben Hall was a college student, he had a bit of a habit with pizza places, and with that one sub shop in Bloomington that serves what he still calls his favorite sandwich. He doesn’t think his dorm room had a microwave, which means when it came time to eat, eating out was all there was.

Today, however, microwaves are about the only dorm room cooking option students have. Rooms are too small for a decent shower, much less an oven and stove. So what to do for a homemade meal?

A microwave, in fact, can be good for more than instant oatmeal, hot chocolate and heating up leftovers. Visit any cookbook section in the bookstore, library or on to find titles such as “A Man, A Can, A Microwave” and “125 Best Microwave Oven Recipes.”

Beth Hensperger, author of “Not Your Mother’s Microwave Cookbook: Fresh, Delicious, and Wholesome Main Dishes, Snacks, Sides, Desserts, and More,” says microwave cooking is ideal for dorm room cooking. It’s also a healthy way to cook, she writes in an email, as food cooked in the microwave retains its nutrients and its natural flavor.

“(I cook with my microwave) every day. It is an essential tool in my kitchen,” she writes. “My last microwave broke, and I had to get a new one. I was amazed how much I missed it.”

She named fish, eggs and vegetables as the best foods to cook in a microwave, citing a fish taco recipe from her cookbook.

“Fish tacos from the microwave start to finish?” Hensperger writes. “Yes. And the fish is perfect, too.”

Whether you’re interested in breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert, we have you covered.


Ham-and-Cheese Omelet

2 tablespoons finely chopped onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper

1/2 (5-ounce) can chunk lean ham, drained and chopped

2 eggs

1 tablespoon 2 percent milk

2 tablespoons shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese

Pinch of black pepper

Coat a 1-quart microwave-safe dish with cooking spray. Stir in the onion and bell pepper and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Nuke for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the veggies soften. Stir in the ham, cover and nuke for 1 to 2 minutes, or until heated through. In a bowl, beat the eggs and milk. Pour the beaten eggs over the ham mixture. With the dish uncovered, nuke for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring once, until the eggs are still a little wet. Scatter on the cheese and black pepper. Nuke for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the eggs are set and the cheese is melted.

– “A Man, A Can, A Microwave: 50 Tasty Meals You Can Nuke in No Time”


BLT with Goat Cheese

The best bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich Hall remembers used a crusty baguette bread. This time of year is especially perfect for BLTs because fresh tomatoes are still available.

3 to 4 strips bacon

Goat cheese, to taste

1 loaf baguette

Lettuce, torn into sandwich-sized pieces

Tomato, sliced

Layer two to three paper towels on a paper plate. Lay bacon across towels and cover with another paper towel. Heat 3 to 4 minutes. Spread goat cheese on bagette. Top with lettuce, tomato and bacon.

– Ben Hall, general manager at Don Hall’s Old Gas House


Baja Fish Tacos

Desired condiments

1/2 white onion, chopped

1 whole jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and minced

3 tablespoons water or chicken broth

1 1/2 pounds (1-inch thick) white fish filets (no bones)

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Pinch or two of pure chile powder, such as Ancho or New Mexican red chile powder (optional)

8 to 12 fresh corn tortillas

Prepare and assemble your taco condiments. This can be as informal as what you have around in the refrigerator right out of plastic storage containers to a more formal buffet setting everything out on the counter or on the table in serving dishes.

In a casserole dish, place the onion and jalapeño and spread out over the bottom of the dish, then add the water or broth. Arrange the fish filets in a single layer on top, and rub in the olive oil on the top surface. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and a bit of chile powder. If ends are thin, tuck them under to make an even layer. Cover the baking dish with a layer of paper towel. Microcook on high for about 3 minutes for a 1-inch thick filet, until the fish flakes. Remove from the oven.

Wrap the stack of tortillas (you can do 4 at a time to have piping hot ones at all times) in a slightly damp plain white paper towel. Place in the microwave and microcook about 60 seconds.

Portion the fish and some of the vegetables onto 4 dinner plates. Add some lettuce onto the warm tortilla, then place some of the fish on top. Add a squeeze of lime and then layer your condiments. Eat immediately.

– “Not Your Mother’s Microwave Cookbook: Fresh, Delicious, and Wholesome Main Dishes, Snacks, Sides, Desserts, and More”


Chocolate bread pudding

5 slices bread (white, raisin, or oatmeal)

3 eggs

1/2 cup canned chocolate syrup

2 cups 1 percent milk

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

If the bread crusts are thick, cut them off. Stack the bread, cut it into bite-size squares, and dump the squares into a 1/2 -quart microwave-safe dish (such as an 8-by-8-inch dish). In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then mix in everything else. Pour the egg mixture over the bread, squashing the bread with a spoon so it gets completely soaked. Nuke on medium power for 10 to 12 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean (the edges will be a little firmer than the center). Set aside for 2 minutes – the still-hot pudding will finish cooking as it sits there.

– “A Man, A Can, A Microwave: 50 Tasty Meals You Can Nuke in No Time”