Easy and healthy microwave cooking

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If you’re part of a busy family, you’re probably already sold on the incredible convenience of a microwave appliance. But did you know that microwaves can actually help you improve the nutrition and healthfulness of your meals?

Microwaving preserves vitamins and minerals because the shorter cooking time means fewer nutrients are lost to heat. Then too, microwaves work especially well on fresh, high water-content foods like fish, poultry, vegetables and fruit. This means you can emphasize low-calorie, low-fat foods in your menus without sacrificing nutrition or time.

Finally, a 1984 U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that microwaved meat contained less fat and fewer calories than meat cooked by electric broiling, charbroiling, roasting, convection heating or frying, regardless of how much fat the raw meat contained.

As you can see, microwaving offers busy people much more than speed. It’s also a convenient way to lower fat, reduce salt, preserve vitamins and minerals and keep high-fiber foods in your diet without spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Here are the latest hot tips for cooking quick, healthy meals with your microwave.

  • Instead of sautéing fish and vegetables in butter, reduce saturated fats by microwaving them using fragrant lemon and herbs.
  • Salting simply dries out microwaved foods. Enhance flavors by substituting provocative aromatics such as ginger and scallions with chicken, or grated lime peel and garlic with shrimp, for example.
  • Reduce salt and fat in your recipes by marinating. This will take very little time if you microwave the marinating food for 1 to 2 minutes on the lowest power before you cook it.
  • Make it easy to include low-calorie, fresh shellfish in your diet with this timesaving trick: To cook clams and oysters; place six in a circle with their opening edges facing the center. Microwave on full power for about 4 minutes or until all shells are open.
  • You can cook eight medium shrimp in their shells to perfection. Set your microwave on full power for about 30 seconds. Let the shrimp stand another 30 seconds before serving.
  • Fish oils help preserve your heart’s health, so put more fish in your diet. Get the most flavors and the best texture from microwaved fish by bringing it to room temperature for 1 to 2 minutes on low power. If the fish is too cold, you’ll overcook the outside before the inside is done.
  • Lean fish such as flounder fillet microwaves very well. Try smothering the fish with chopped tomatoes and basil, then microwaving, covered, on full power for about 4% minutes per pound.
  • With a little help from your microwave, you can afford the time to cook lean, healthful poultry. When microwaving chicken legs, arrange the pieces in a circle with the meaty parts facing the edge. This way, the microwaves will reach the meatiest parts first, so the pieces cook more evenly.
  • To preserve maximum nutrition in vitamin-packed vegetables, cook them quickly but evenly. Broccoli and asparagus should be arranged in a circle with the tender buds facing the middle. This exposes the tough stalks to more intense cooking.
  • Whenever you cook more than one kind of vegetable at a time cut all vegetable pieces the same size. Combining vegetables that have similar textures also helps. Cook root vegetables together, for instance.
  • When you want to peel fresh tomatoes for soups or sauces, microwave them on full power for approximately 1 minute (adjust this time according to size and ripeness).
  • When you want to remove the skin from a fresh pepper, you can skip the traditional long-roasting method. Simply microwave it on full power for 3 minutes, turning the pepper three times. Then wrap it loosely and place it in the freezer until cool. The skin will peel easily.
  • For a fast, nutritious, low calorie dessert, bake an apple. Peel the top third to prevent the insides from bursting through the skin as the heat expands them. Cover the apple and cook on full power for 3 minutes. Serve with yogurt flavored with maple syrup and cinnamon.
  • Dried fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals. To plump raisins and other dried fruit, lightly sprinkle 1 cup of dried fruit with juice or water. Then cover and microwave on full power for 1 minute, stirring after about 30 seconds. Let the fruit stand about 4 minutes before using it in baking, on cereals, in compotes or as a snack.
  • Nuts are a fine concentrated source of protein, vitamins and minerals. To shell nuts easily, place a handful in a covered dish with enough water to cover them. Microwave on full power for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain, let them cool and dry, and then shell. Shell chestnuts by slitting the shells, then microwaving a handful, uncovered, on full power for about 45 seconds.
  • Baking bread at home ensures nutritious loaves. One timesaving trick to check if your yeast is live: Mix it with the recipe’s sweetener, the liquid and %4 cup of the recipe’s flour. Cover with vented plastic wrap, then microwave on lowest power, for 1 minute. Look for pops or bubbles.
  • If you’re ready to bake but some of your ingredients are frozen, don’t invite unwanted microbes by defrosting them slowly. Instead, bring them to room temperature in the microwave.
  • ‘To preserve nutrients in your sauces, cut down on cooking time. Microwaved sauces cook faster in a measuring cup than in a shallow dish.
  • Researchers have found that microwave cooking is less effective than conventional cooking for destroying salmonella and staph organisms in meat. You’re better off cooking a turkey, say, in a brown-in bag. But if you must microwave your bird, remember that it must maintain an internal temperature of 170°F for at least % hour. You will need to use your conventional oven to do this.
  • If you microwave meat and poultry prior to grilling, you can slash overall cooking time and retain natural juices. Start with a 2 ½ -pound chicken. Remove all skin. Place pieces bone side up on a microwave drainer, with the meatiest portion facing out. Cover with waxed paper and cook on high power for 4 ½ minutes. Turn and cook another 4 ½ minutes, or until juices run clear when meat is pierced with a fork. Transfer to grill and cook for 5 minutes on high heat, basting often.
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