Gaucho Casserole

Gaucho Casserole

Although many people reserve their microwave ovens for heating beverages and popping popcorn, microwave cooking can be a healthy, low-fat way to prepare meats, fish, vegetables and fruit.

Microwaving is so speedy that foods, particularly vegetables, retain their moisture and more of their vitamins and minerals. Plus, microwaved foods don't require the oil or fat that sauteing in a skillet does. If you want to give veggies, fish or poultry more flavor, add a little broth or wine—you won't need much. Because there's less evaporation during cooking, you can reduce the amount of liquid required by about one-third when preparing soups, sides and main dishes.

Ground beef, fish and most cuts of chicken are good choices for the microwave because of their high moisture content. You'll have the most success with pieces that are similar in size and thickness, such as a chicken breast cut in cubes.

If you try to eat nutritious foods but find they take too long to prepare, microwaving's the answer. Butternut squash takes an hour in the oven but just 12 minutes in the microwave. Fresh beets cook an hour on the stove but only 20 minutes in the microwave. Baked potatoes can be ready in 10-15 minutes.

Here are a few more microwaving tips to digest:

  • To adapt a conventional recipe, cut the cooking time to one-quarter or one-third of the time called for. If the food still needs cooking, increase it a little at a time.
  • Add low-fat cheese and other toppings near the end of cooking to keep them from becoming tough or soggy.
  • If you plan to add liquid, avoid coating meat with flour. The coating will become soggy.
  • Use quick-cooking or instant rice instead of long-grain.

Recipes for the Microwave

The following two recipes were tested in an 850-watt microwave. You may need to adjust the timing based on the wattage of your microwave.

"When our daughters graduated from college, my husband and I made recipe books for their closest friends," says Dianne Hennis of King George, Virginia. "This Gaucho Casserole (shown above right) was a big hit."

Microwaving brings out the natural sweetness of the apples in this warm, comforting Microwave Apple Crisp from Anna Mae Kocher of Sunman, Indiana.