The microwave oven has been around since the 1950s. If that sounds fishy, that's because it's only part of the story of the microwave oven. It took another 20 years for ordinary households to score a microwave oven. And when that happened, the life of all Americans in the 1970s became much easier. One day, out of thin air, cook time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner suddenly just bottomed out. What could have taken hours to cook could now take minutes? It was a miracle…

Of course, the technology needed improvement when it was first introduced. Not many people could merely browse recipes in their favorite cookbook and make tastebud-inspiring meals. Almost right away, many Americans took to cooking prepackaged microwave meals from the frozen section of the supermarket. After that came microwave-safe recipes with actual fresh ingredients, including meat and vegetables. So several decades on, having a microwave today is about as common as having a television or a video game console. It's just an ordinary kitchen appliance. And in all that time, we've gotten very good at optimizing our microwave usage.

Breakfast Microwave Recipes

For me, the best time to microwave is first thing in the morning before I have to leave for work. While I sometimes want to avoid long cook times in the evenings, I usually don't have something like a work shift waiting for me after I finish eating. So as I'm getting ready for my day, I don't always have the time to make French toast with scrambled eggs and hash browns with toast on a skillet and in the toaster. It's just far too much preparation. Instead, I turn to my trusty Cup O' Toast recipe (it's actually just French-toast in a mug). The entire recipe takes only five minutes. In a large mug, I mix all of my wet ingredients: milk, syrup, vanilla, and egg, and then add dry ingredients including nutmeg and dried fruit. Then I break challah bread into pieces and place it in the mug. Once the bread absorbs all the liquid, I pop it in the microwave for about 1 minute to 90 seconds. It's important that you find the right combination of time, microwave wattage, and the size mug you're using. When your French toast is finished cooking, sprinkle with some powdered sugar and top off with maple syrup.

Another breakfast favorite is eggs. And fortunately, you can make a fantastic poached egg in the microwave. Here's what to do. Fill a microwave-safe bowl with hot water (as hot as you can get it from the faucet). Add a bit of salt and a little cider vinegar. Break your egg into the water. It's best if you do this slowly. Then cook for 2 1/5 to 3 minutes. Lift the poached egg out of the scalding water with a slotted ladle or spoon -- never your fingers! Making scrambled eggs is even easier if you can believe it. I crack the eggs in a microwave-safe bowl, add a little milk, and scramble. I only cook in increments of 30 seconds with a good stir following each increment. It typically takes 90 minutes to get evenly-cooked through scrambled eggs. Salt for taste and then enjoy!

Healthy Microwave Recipes

One of the best things to come out of the "microwave movement" is that there are so many great healthy-eating microwave meals out there. Not only does it save time to use a microwave for meal preparation in the evenings, but lots of experts have figured exact times and methods for making great pasta recipes, chicken recipes, and even different types of cuisines, like Indian and Italian food. If like me, you have problems cooking chicken in the oven, then you're probably surprised to hear that I don't only use the microwave to heat up yesterday's roast chicken leftovers, but I'll even cook some straightforward and unique chicken recipes. To make a sweet and sour casserole, I combine tomato paste, malt vinegar, garlic, and a little sugar, with onion, peppers, and diced skinless chicken breast in a glass dish. Leave uncovered and cook on High for 8 to 10 minutes. The chicken won't be fully cooked through yet. Add pineapple chunks, peas or green beans, and nuke for another 3 to 5 minutes. After the casserole has time to cool, it's ready to serve.

When I'm craving some Mexican food, fortunately, I don't have to pay for delivery. I can make some fajitas in a few minutes at home. I place sliced green and red peppers and red onion at the bottom of a glass casserole that has a cover. Then with different spices, including any combination of chili powder, paprika, ground cumin, garlic powder, or ground coriander. Or look for a southwest-style seasoning. I place chicken tender strips on top of the veggies and cover those in the same spice combo. Then drizzle some olive oil over the chicken. Place the lid snuggly over the top of the dish, and nuke for 10 minutes. You may need to add a minute or two for a low-wattage microwave. Serve with fajita wraps. You can even sprinkle with shredded cheese, add rice, and sour cream.

Dessert Microwave Recipes

The last thing I love having a microwave for is to make some fantastic desserts. Did you realize you can make no-bake chocolate cake? What about microwave brownies with chocolate chips? Then wash it down with spicy hot chocolate. (I have non-chocolate recipes, too.) My no-bake chocolate cake takes just 15 minutes and uses all the same ingredients you need to make an ordinary baked cake. The difference is, this one goes in a microwaveable pan, it's covered with plastic wrap, and nuked on High for 7 minutes. (The wattage I use is 800). If the cake is still wet inside, microwave it for another 2 minutes.

And this hot chocolate recipe is a great calming treat for before bed. I make it with whole milk or 2 percent milk and cocoa powder. I microwave it for a minute, stir, then heat another 30 seconds. Be sure to check the temperature before drinking!

Whenever you're cooking anything new in a microwave, you'll always need to do a little guesswork regarding cook time. It's best to stick with exact measurements and the type of dish or casserole the recipe calls for, too. And also, know your microwave wattage. It's usually printed on a sticker and placed inside the microwave door. But even with all this information, you may need to up your cook time or reduce it by a minute or two if your dish is a little larger or your ingredients are more dense or less dense. Just write down those corrections for the next time you make the same recipe and for round two, your dish will be ready right on time!

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