It might be a note on the refrigerator, or a phone call from Mom or Dad. “We’re going to be late tonight. Can you start fixing dinner?” Or maybe it’s just your regular night to cook. Or maybe you’ve just come home from school and you have to have something to eat.
These days, when everyone in the family’s busy, a lot of teenagers share the shopping and cooking with the grownups. And for adults and teens alike, the microwave has become their fast friend in the kitchen for snacks and meals. It’s quick defroster, it reheats leftovers without giving them that warmed-over taste, it makes cooking quick and easy, and it eliminates a lot of dish washing.
Ready When You Are
The food industry knows a good thing when they see one, and they’re turning out a lengthening list of ingenious products designed for the microwave. Technology has raised microwave popcorn to the top of the home snack popularity list, and brought microwave individual pizzas close behind. And that’s just the beginning. Supermarket freezers and shelves are filled now with breakfast items, baked goods, entrees, soups, side dishes, vegetables, desserts, and more, all microwaveable.
Before you buy or use them, though it’s a good idea to read the ingredient list on the package. Some products are more nutritionally sound than others. Microwave pastries, for instance, can have just as much high-calorie fat and sugar as any other kind. The vegetable oil on the butter-flavored popcorn may be palm or coconut oil, both more saturated than butter. (Those “sat-fats” can clog your arteries, you recall.) Even some diet entrees may have more fat and calories than you might expect.
You don’t have to eat just what the manufacturers give you, you know. You can make your own snacks and specialties, to suit your own taste. With a microwave, it’s quick and easy.
What a Friend Can Do
The microwave has a lot of special virtues. If you eat different food from the rest of the family–vegetarian meals, for example, or a weight-control diet–it’s easy to make a separate meal that’s meatless or low in fat and calories.
Microwave cooking’s good for nutrition because it uses less liquid and less fat. This is especially true with vegetables. Cooked in a minimum of liquid, they don’t lose water-soluble vitamins, and they have better flavor. The microwave has made baked potatoes easy, because it cooks them in minutes. (A standard oven takes almost an hour.) You can even cook fresh corn on the cob right in its husk, instead of shucking the corn and boiling up a big pot of water. And the husk and corn silk are easier to peel off after cooking.
Cooked fruit for breakfast or dessert–a baked apple, for example, or a poached pear–is easy, quick, delicious, and low in calories.
Chicken and fish can be cooked fast and with fine flavor. And crusty oven-baked fish or chicken in the microwave is quick and tasty, without the excess calories that come with frying in deep fat.
A microwave isn’t practical for quantity cooking, though. The more food you put in, the longer it takes. For a big turkey or a dozen baked potatoes, the regular oven is best, and boiling pasta in a big pot of water is better on top of the stove.
But what the microwave does for small amounts of food is wonderful.
Three Squares a Day
Take a look at breakfast, for instance. Think about old-fashioned oatmeal on a chilly morning, hearty and warming, topped with a bit of brown sugar and milk. In the microwave, it’s ready in just minutes.
Or bacon, for a special weekend breakfast, with cold fruit juice and hot muffins. Bacon’s much better in a microwave. Put the strips of bacon on a plate lined with white paper towers, covered with another towel, and they come out crisp, flat, and grease free. And no frying pan to clean, either.
How about a pita bread sandwich for lunch? Cut a pita pocket in two, and line each half with a slice of low-fat cheese. Add two or three cherry tomatoes, cut in half, a few strips of green pepper and avocado. Set on a plate and cook at full power for one minute, or until the cheese melts.