6 healthy, complete meals you can make in the microwave

Beyond TV dinners

Frozen pizza rolls, disposable bowls of ramen, roommates’ leftovers — you can maintain a sorry diet using nothing but a microwave. But you can also pursue balanced meals, surprising flavors and efficient nutrition with the underrated tool, says David Joachim, who wrote “A Man, a Can, a Microwave: 50 Tasty Meals You Can Nuke in No Time” with the editors of Men’s Health magazine. Microwaves can save time and reduce waste, plus the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy calls them the most energy efficient cooking appliance in your kitchen, and the World Health Organization deems them safe when they’re used in accordance to the manufacturer’s directions. Here are six recipes to upgrade your microwave game:

Baked potato

Don’t fall for the lingering myth that potatoes are unhealthy since they’re carbohydrate-rich, warns Nancy Farrell, a registered dietitian in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “Baked potatoes are a good food,” she says, containing potassium, vitamin C and fiber. To cook one in the microwave, simply pierce the skin (after washing it) with a fork and then nuke it for five minutes on high. Turn it over, microwave it for five more minutes and voila! Farrell suggests eating the skin and topping it with non-fat sour cream and seasonings or a light Italian dressing. “Instead of trying to make the microwave oven do something it can’t,” Joachim says, “focus on what it’s good at: steaming things fast.”

Egg and veggie scramble

Wake up and smell the scrambled eggs. Whipping them up sans stovetop is shockingly fast and effective, thanks to the microwave. Simply whisk two eggs in a coffee mug with minced onions and peppers, cut-up cherry tomatoes and salt and pepper, recommends Peter Sherman, executive chef of BarBacon in New York City. Microwave it on high for a minute and a half, top it with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese and cook it for 30 more seconds. For a satisfying, though not entirely healthy, side, add a slice of bacon, which is also an ideal microwave occupant, since the tool, unlike a pan, prevents uneven cooking and burning, Sherman says.

Salad Lyonnaise

Poached eggs are proof that a dish with a fancy reputation can be made in an appliance with a low-brow one. To make one, put 1/3 cup water and 1/8 teaspoon of white vinegar in a coffee cup, break an egg into the cup, pierce the egg yolk with a toothpick and cover the dish loosely with plastic wrap, Sherman says. Cook it in the microwave for one minute (or to your liking) and remove it immediately from the hot water with a slotted spoon. Nestle it into a bed of frisee salad, and top it with a little bit of bacon (also made via microwave) and your favorite vinaigrette for a French-inspired salad, Sherman suggests.

Thai coconut chicken curry

No need to deny your Thai food cravings when you’re eating in. Instead, Joachim suggests, mix a 14-ounce can of coconut milk and 2 tablespoons of a Thai curry red paste in a 2-quart microwave-safe dish. Microwave it for three to five minutes, stirring throughout. Add a pound of boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut into bite-sized chunks), 1 cup of broccoli florets, 1/2 cup of sliced red bell pepper, 2 tablespoons of minced shallots, two minced garlic cloves, 2 teaspoons of minced ginger and a tablespoon of fish sauce. Wrap with plastic wrap and microwave for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring a few times. When the chicken is cooked and the sauce is thicker, throw it on rice and enjoy!

Old Bay Shrimp Boil

Take your taste buds on vacation in only 15 minutes. “Everything simmers together, infusing all the ingredients with satisfying flavors,” Joachim says. Pour half a light beer into a slightly shallow, 2-quart microwave-safe dish, and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning, juice from half a lemon and three tablespoons of cut-up butter. Add a pound of peeled and deveined shrimp, six baby red potatoes (cut in half), a cup of frozen corn, two minced garlic cloves and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Mix it up, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for eight to 10 minutes. Top with chopped fresh herbs like parsley, basil or chives, Joachim suggests.

Steamed fish with vegetables

Microwaves are pretty ideal for fish, Joachim says, since — like vegetables, stews and soups — they have a high water content, and water is a microwave’s secret weapon. “The cooking happens primarily through steam: Microwaves excite the water molecules in the food, which causes the surrounding molecules to move rapidly, generating heat that migrates through the food, warming it up,” Joachim explains. To cook fish this way, season it with herbs and lemon, put it in a sealed glass container and cook it for 2-minute increments until it reaches your desired doneness, Farrell suggests. Steam chopped veggies in the microwave, too, by cooking them in a 1/4 cup of water. Dinner is served.

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6 Healthy, Complete Meals You Can Make in the Microwave originally appeared on usnews.com

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