How often have you denied yourself a dish of chocolate pudding because you did not want to make and eat a whole box? You can have that pudding — along with chocolate cake, the custard, and many of the other delights you have been denying yourself. Thanks to the microwave, these recipes are now practical for the person cooking for one. All of the ingredients used in Microwave Cooking for One are available in local food stores, not just in specialty shops.
Incorporated into the index are listings of ingredients that do not store well if left over and of unusual ingredients that you may not have many uses for. For example, if you have a pound of ground beef which is usually the smallest amount you can buy), the index can show you how to cook four ounces of it a different way each day for the next four days. A prepackaged carton of blueberries or strawberries can be used in a recipe and the rest cooked into preserves; a carton of mushrooms can be used in many recipes during the week or all at once in the Mushroom Loaf recipe in the Vegetables section.
Most cities have at least one supermarket that does not package all of its fresh produce, so selections of small amounts and uniform shapes and sizes can be made. When writing my shopping list, I note the weights of the ingredients I need so that I will only buy enough food to make a dish. This cuts down considerable on food costs and the throwing away of spoiled food and leftovers. Many supermarkets will undo a package of produce on request and measure out a certain amount. Every supermarket butcher I have ever dealt with has cheerfully reduced the amount of meat in a package in the meat case if I request it. However, society's changes are helping the customer; as the number of single-occupant homes in this country continues to increase, the food industry must gear its packaging more and more to the individual consumer.
Visit our Pantry to shop online for those special delicacies that are difficult to locate at your local grocer.
Follow the Recipes
When learning to cook in the microwave, it is important that you follow the recipes exactly. Microwave Cooking for One is intended to be used as a workbook. Once you've mastered a few recipes, and begin to understand how foods cook differently in the microwave as opposed to conventional cooking, then try adapting some of your own recipes.
In conventional cooking the center of the cooking utensil is the hottest spot. In the microwave, the food around the outer edges cooks more quickly. Arrange food in a ring around the outer edges of the utensil you are cooking in, placing the thinnest parts of the food towards the center. For instance, you would align the tails of shrimp toward the center and the meatier parts outward.
Other Useful Hints
At the beginning of Microwave Cooking for One, I provide some hints on how to use and store perishable ingredients without wasting them. These are especially useful to someone living along, or households that cook individual meals. Here are a few examples:
- Bacon: To store bacon, wrap each slice in a piece of waxed paper, then wrap all the slices tightly in freezer wrap and place in freezer. Remove each slice as needed and add to recipe frozen.
- Butter: Butter is an optional ingredient in many of these recipes, but it does enhance the taste of a dish. Margarine may be substituted for butter in each case.
- Frozen Vegetables: Today almost any vegetable you might need is available frozen in bags. This makes it easy and practical to use the exact amount of vegetables needed and return the rest to the freezer.
- Green Peppers: Use the amount needed for a recipe, cut the rest of the pepper into chunks and put it into a small plastic container. Frozen green pepper will keep quite a while and is easily chopped, minced, or sliced. Add it frozen to recipes.
- Onions: Chopped white onions are used in these recipes. Chop up several onions at a time, freeze them in a plastic container, and add them to the recipes frozen. Frozen chopped onion can be minced easily.
- Parsley: Fresh parsley adds to the flavor of a dish and freezes well. It is sold in bunches, so chop the entire bunch, put it into a plastic container, and freeze.
- Salt: Many of these recipes do not require any salt. The microwave oven emphasizes the salt content of food, so recipes containing a conventional amount of salt will taste twice as salty. Canned vegetables, cheese, bacon, and other such ingredients already contain enough salt and can be cooked in the microwave oven without added salt.
- Sautéing: All the sautéing that is required in French-style cooking is unnecessary in the microwave; therefore, the dishes it produces are much easier on the digestive system. To prepare onions, green peppers, mushrooms, or other vegetables to be added to a recipe, you need only slice or chop the vegetable onto a paper plate, cover it with a paper towel, and cook it until soft. All the flavor and the nutritional value remain in the food, and no additional salt or butter is needed. Favorite dishes that had become indigestible to me as I grew older are now edible again.
- Tomato Paste: Most of the recipes call for 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, but the rest of the can freezes well in a small plastic container and, when frozen, is easy to cut with a dull kitchen knife.