Most home and professional cooks alike have been there before: biting off more than they can chew when volunteering to host and cook a full holiday meal. The turkey may be cooked to perfection, but the green beans are burnt and someone completely forgot to start cooking the potatoes. Fortunately, not all is lost when it comes to whipping up side dishes at the last minute. We’ve pulled together some road-tested, microwave-friendly side dish recipes that can be made in a pinch, and have asked the experts to share some basic dos and don’ts when it comes to microwave cooking.
Canned veggies like sweet potatoes are very microwave-friendly and still extremely healthy, says Danny Bolstad, nutritionist at Allens Vegetables. Most vegetables canned on their own or in water still contain the same antioxidants and vitamins as their fresh alternatives. “Microwave cooking is also a great way to get kids involved, and allows them to make and measure a few things with minimal supervision,” adds Bolstad.
Other whole vegetables like onions can be easily sautéed in the microwave by chopping them as needed, placing in a microwave-safe container with a tablespoon of water and cooking on high for a minute or two until soft, advises Anthony Gambino, owner and operator of Cucina Paradiso in Oak Park, IL and Burger Boss in Elmwood Park, IL. According to Gambino, foods to always avoid microwaving include bread, chicken, fruit and shellfish.
“If you cover your food, make sure to leave it vented so that steam doesn’t build up. Be sure to stir and rotate items as necessary while you cook,” recommends Gambino. He also recommends not heating any water or liquids in the microwave beyond the time recommended in the recipe and using oven mitts to remove extra-hot items from the microwave.
Here are 5 great tasting side dish recipes that you can make in the microwave:
1). Baked Potato with Tzatziki Sauce
1 russet potato
1 6 oz. container of fat-free, plain Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. fresh dill
Salt to taste
1 clove garlic
Scrub the potato, and prick several times with the tip of a fork. Place it on a microwave-safe plate and cook on full power in the microwave for 5 minutes. Turn over, and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. When the potato is soft, remove from the microwave, and cut in half lengthwise, return it to the microwave, and cook for about 1 minute.
Peel cucumber and grate it using the coarse side of a box greater (you can also shred it using a vegetable peeler). In a small dish, combine the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and dill. Season to taste with salt.
2). Broccoli with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli
1 14 oz. bag frozen broccoli florets or 2 heads fresh broccoli, cleaned and cut at stems
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. salt, adjust to your liking
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli Ingredients
1 clove garlic chopped
1/2 cup jarred roasted red peppers drained and firmly patted dry
1/3 cup mayo
1 tsp. Sriracha hot sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Microwave broccoli and
water in covered bowl on high for 6 minutes or until crisp tender, then drain the cooked broccoli.
Roasted Red Pepper Aioli Directions
Place all ingredients except for olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until almost smooth. With the food processor’s motor running, slowly drizzle in oil. Refrigerate
3). Quick & Easy Candied Yams
2 cans (15.5 oz.) each or 1 can (29 oz.) cut sweet potatoes or whole sweet potatoes
5 tbsp. butter or margarine
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1-2 cups miniature marshmallows (optional)*
Pour sweet potatoes and liquid into 2-quart microwave-safe dish. Cook in microwave on high until heated through, stirring twice. Drain liquid. Combine butter or margarine and brown sugar in 1-quart microwave-safe dish. Cook in microwave on high until hot but not boiling, stirring twice. Add nuts to sauce, if desired, and pour over hot sweet potatoes. Stir just to coat. Serve immediately.
*One or two cups miniature marshmallows may be added on top of dish just before serving and placed under the oven broiler until golden brown. Watch closely.
4). Green Beans with Mushrooms and Water Chestnuts
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp. margarine
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1 14.5 oz. can Italian green beans, drained
1 8 oz. can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Combine mushrooms and margarine in 1-quart microwave-safe casserole dish. Cover with casserole lid. Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.
In a small bowl, combine milk, soy sauce, cornstarch and salt; mix well. Stir into mushrooms. Microwave on high, uncovered, 2-3 minutes or until mixture boils and thickens, stirring once.
Add green beans and water chestnuts; mix lightly. Cover and microwave on high 4-6 minutes or until heated through, stirring once.
5). Creamy Spinach Soup
1 13.5 oz. can spinach, drained
1 1/2 cups milk
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp. sherry (optional)
Dash ground cloves
Pepper to taste
Place spinach, milk, onion, butter and flour in blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour spinach mixture into medium saucepan. Add sherry, if desired. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes or until heated. Season with nutmeg, cloves, and pepper.
Microwave butter and onions in a 2-quart glass casserole on high for 2 minutes until tender. Place spinach, milk, flour and onion mixture in blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pour spinach mixture into casserole and cook on high 4 to 5 minutes until heated through. Stir sherry and seasonings into hot soup.