Chances are you have a microwave sitting somewhere in your kitchen. They've gotten smaller over the years, but even the most svelte version takes up precious real estate. It's time to put that baby to work.
Here are 7 unexpected uses for your microwave:
1. Cook fish - Cook a steak in the microwave and you'll end up with shoe leather. Fish, on the other hand, can be cooked perfectly in the microwave. Simply wrap your fish in microwave-safe plastic with a little seasoning (salt and pepper and some lemon, perhaps) and cook for about 2 minutes on high. (The time for doneness will vary depending on the strength of your microwave and the size and shape of your fillet. Watch it closely to prevent overcooking.)
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2. Sanitize your kitchen sponge - Sponges are a breeding ground for germs. It's easy to just throw them away, but they're not cheap, so extend the use of your sponge by zapping away harmful bacteria in your microwave daily! Just place your (wet) sponge in the microwave and nuke it for 2 minutes on High. That should be enough to kill 99% of the harmful bacteria that set up camp there.
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3. Make potato chips - It's hard to believe anything can get as crispy as a potato chip in the microwave, but believe it! Thinly sliced potatoes crisp up beautifully in the microwave (see the recipe below) and since these crispy chips aren't fried, they're healthier for you, too, with around 8 grams less fat per serving than regular chips. Who knew?
4. Steam vegetables - Put that annoying steamer basket away and cook your veggies in the microwave. Not only is it easier, but it's better for you. The longer and hotter you cook a food, the more you'll lose certain heat- and water-sensitive nutrients, especially vitamin C and thiamin - a B vitamin. Because microwave cooking often cooks foods more quickly, it can actually help to minimize nutrient losses.
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5. Soften brown sugar - Ever go to make cookies and find your brown sugar is as hard as a rock? Put down your chisel, moisten some paper towels and place them on top of your brick of brown sugar. Microwave in 30-second increments and your brown sugar will loosen up. Crisis averted.
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6. Cook bacon - No room for another pan on your stove to cook bacon in for breakfast? No worries. You can get crispy bacon in your microwave. (With less mess!) Cover a microwave-safe dish with a couple of paper towels. Add bacon in a single layer. Cover the bacon with a couple more paper towels and cook in 2-minute increments until crispy.
7. Use it as a proofer - Calling all bakers! Need a warm, moist place for your dough to rise? The microwave is the perfect place to set up a temporary proofer (for nonbakers, a proofer is a contraption that creates ideal conditions, i.e., warm and moist, for yeast breads to rise.) The sealed environment of your microwave will keep the moisture and heat in. Just heat a cup of water in your microwave until it's steaming, then put your dough in along with it, shut the door and let it do its thing.
Microwave Potato Chips
Active time: 30 minutes | Total: 30 minutes | To make ahead: Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
You don't need a deep fryer to make crispy potato chips. We toss thinly sliced potatoes with just a touch of olive oil, pop them in the microwave and voilà! Crispy, crunchy homemade potato chips with 8 grams less fat per serving than regular chips.
1 1/3 pounds Yukon Gold or red potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Slice potatoes into thin (1/8-inch) rounds. Toss the slices in a medium bowl with oil and salt to coat evenly.
2. Coat a large microwave-proof plate with cooking spray. Arrange some potato slices in a single layer on the plate. Microwave, uncovered, on High until some slices start to brown, 2 to 3 minutes (depending on potato thickness and microwave power). Turn the slices over and continue microwaving until they start to crisp and brown around the edges, 2 to 4 minutes more. Check frequently and rearrange slices as needed to prevent scorching. Transfer the chips to another plate and allow to cool completely. (They will crisp more as they cool.) Repeat with the remaining potato slices.
Makes 4 servings, 12-14 chips each.
Per serving: 141 calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 2 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 26 g carbohydrate; 3 g protein; 2 g fiber; 291 mg sodium; 807 mg potassium.
How do you use your microwave?
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.
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