Look around your kitchen. There’s a cooking appliance staring you in the face that can save you money. Maybe the hand whisk? Nope. It’s the microwave. When the microwave oven first began to appear on shelves or kitchen surfaces it was seen by many as a convenient way of heating a cup of milk, or warming up the take-away that got cold on the walk from the shop, or as something only really appropriate for Ready-meals (stab the cellophane with a fork a few times, shove in, and forget for a few minutes). There were also some people that were suspicious of this new-fangled invisible heating method;where were the flames?The comforting glowing electric ring? The dancing flames of gas on the hob?
For those who are well and truly over the “it’s magic” feeling about microwaves, there’s something you need to know. By making your microwave oven the main appliance of choice in your kitchen, you can save significant money on fuel bills, and experience the culinary delights of food cooked in its own juices.
First, you probably already know that if you cook in a batch you will save time on preparation and cooking, and money on fuel bills: It takes relatively little more heat to cook a big pot of stew or soup, than a single portion. For those of us like me, who live by ourselves, stop thinking “I’m only cooking for one” and start thinking “I am cooking a meal for one today, but will also have enough for one later in the week, one next week, and maybe even one when a friend drops in unexpectedly. Call it overcooking if you like, but it makes economic sense. What you don’t eat once cooked, you divide into single portions. One goes in the fridge for tomorrow or the next day, while the others go in the freezer.
You’ll be using your microwave to re-heat tomorrow’s meal, and later on, you can use it to defrost and then heat the other portions later in the week or next week. The amount of energy used is re-heating and defrosting is a lot less than if you had to cook from scratch. And believe me, some meals taste even better when re-heated; home-made lentil curry for one!
But there’s a lot more you can do. Think not only defrost and re-heat with a microwave, think cook! There are a number of books out there with recipes for you to use your microwave when cooking for just yourself. Ignore the people who say that any book called “Microwave Cooking For One” is sad. I yearn for days when I have the place to myself and can do some experiments in microwave cooking cheap, tasty and nutritious meals for moi!
Restaurant owners and even celebrity chefs are (some reluctantly) agreeing that you can prepare great meals in a microwave, even if it doesn’t make for dramatic television. The two big advantages in using the microwave to cook are, of course, time and money. After the preparation, microwave cooking is quicker and cheaper because it is efficient. The food heats itself from within, which uses a lot less energy because no heat is wasted on heating the air around it (in a conventional oven) or through the bottom of a pot. With modern microwaves you can poach, steam, and even roast and grill. All at less cost.
Just to start you off, here’s a tasty, healthy and nutritious breakfast for one: omelette in a cereal bowl:
1 large egg and 2 egg whites
2 Tbsps. shredded cheddar cheese
1 Tbsp diced green or red pepper (or even a mild green or red chilli)
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Cooking spray (or vegetable oil)
Combine the ingredients except the grated cheese in a microwave-safe cereal bowl coated with a non-stick spray. Microwave on high for 1 minute then open door, remove and stir. Return to microwave and cook until the eggs are completely set, which should be a further 1 to 1.5 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top, serve, and enjoy. If you want garnish with a sprig of parsley. Hey presto- a perfect start to the day!