The idea for this post came last week when I found myself staring blankly at the pantry. I had a few russet potatoes that were intended for a beef stew that never happened and some broccoli. I ended up cooking them together in the microwave, and even though that meant dinner had two vegetables, I felt guilty—because microwave cooking.
Though it may sounds silly, I know I’m not alone in feeling self-conscious about cooking with the microwave. Perhaps it’s a negative halo from the old TV dinner days? There’s definitely concern about zapping food of nutrients, and maybe my brain waves along with them? But it’s just so convenient.
To assuage my guilt, I turned to the world wide web. Not only did I found some really great, simple microwave vegetable recipes, I also found something that surprised me: Cooking in the microwave can be nutritionally beneficial. I think I’ll stay away from nuking a whole chicken but, when it comes to quick-cooking vegetables, the microwave can be a handy, no-guilt kitchen tool. Phew.
Tips for cooking in the microwave
Before we get to the recipes, these helpful tips will help ensure success while cooking veggies in the microwave:
* Stick to vegetables that you might otherwise parboil or steam. With just a little bit of water at the bottom of a microwave safe dish, they basically cook the same way but with less water and in less time, which some say helps them retain more vitamins and minerals. You can read more about how to microwave vegetables and also get cooking time suggestions from Mark Bittman at The New York Times. (Pay close attention to the 7th paragraph down!)
* Definitely use microwave safe containers but, if you can, consider avoiding plastic all together. Glass is the safest option.
* I’m sure this goes without saying, but never (ever) put aluminum foil or metal of any kind in the microwave.
* Be careful of hot spots when reheating anything, but especially liquids. Be especially mindful of this if feeding a little one. Food or liquid may seem temperate in one spot, but be steaming hot in another.
Vegetable recipes for the microwave
Most parents have carrots in the refrigerator at all times, but we don’t always consider them for dinner. I love that these dressed up Cinnamon Butter Brown Sugar Carrots at Your Party Tuned Up are an old fashioned recipe, but with less sugar than the original. All prepared in the microwave, these carrots are easy enough to throw together for the kids and feel special enough for grown ups to enjoy, too.
In under 10 minutes, you can have Martha sanctioned Microwave-Steamed Garlic Green Beans from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food as a healthy side dish. Green beans are a great vegetable to try if you’re new to steaming in the microwave and these have tons of flavor.
Do what I did and make your whole meal out of potatoes and broccoli with this recipe for Broccoli Bacon Loaded Baked Potatoes (above & top) at Healthy Seasonal Recipes. If you want to make it completely stove top free, ditch the bacon. With all the creamy cheese, sour cream, and tender broccoli, you may not need it. Well, depending on your day, I guess.
Anything over 10 minutes in the microwave starts to freak me out, but there are so many food writers that swear by cooking spaghetti squash in the microwave—it’s clearly an effective method. A little shredded cheese and seasoning makes this Parmesan Herb Microwave Spaghetti Squash at Joyful Healthy Eats tasty and easy.
Rice that hides three portions of vegetables sounds as good for me as it does for the kids. Secret Veggie Green Rice at My Fussy Eater calls for spinach, cauliflower, and avocado, but it’s really adaptable if you know your kids (or you) aren’t big fans of those veggies. If you don’t have leftover cooked rice, per this recipe, why not cook that in the microwave, too? I found instructions on how to cook perfect rice in the microwave at Steamy Kitchen. Also, I noticed a commenter at My Fussy Eater topped this veggie-packed rice with a fried egg for a complete dinner. Genius. Add a dash of Cholula hot sauce and I’m in.