Oh, the delicious face of modern America: TV, maybe a Playstation, kids running around, just back from hockey practice or piano lessons, and of course, the time crunch. Too much to do in too little time. A possible, partial solution, as offered by 1950s post-war culture? The microwavable meal. All I can say is, my stomach’s not exactly grumbling for a soggy peas-and-carrots mixture. But there is something to be said for microwavable meals, even if it’s only, “They’re so eeeasy. And quick.” We don’t always have time to cook start-to-finish meals. (So sue us! We’re busy!) And, to be fair, many microwavable meals are now reasonably healthy and flavorful. Of course, the problem with brands like Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice is that many of them also contain gluten or cannot be guaranteed to be gluten-free because of the high risk of cross-contamination.
Some dedicated gluten-free companies are working to make gluten-free microwavable meals for the gluten-free community. Ian’s Natural Foods makes a wide selection of gluten-free frozen meals from French Toast Sticks to a Chicken Finger Kids Meal. Contessa makes Paella, Jambalaya, and various shrimp meals, all gluten-free. Other facilities, like Empire Kosher or Bell and Evans, are not dedicated gluten-free but still work to provide gluten-free microwavable meal starters. According to the gluten-free grocery guide, there are nearly forty brands that make gluten-free microwave meals or sides!
If your supermarket doesn’t carry gluten-free ready-made meals, or the prices are more than your monthly budget, OR if you just want something a tiny bit closer to homemade, you can make your own microwave meal. You can cook nearly anything in your microwave in a time comparable to many store brand microwavable meals. Want proof?
The following recipes come from the 2005 The Microwave Convection Oven Cookbook from General Electric.
Acorn Squash with Cranberry Filling
2 medium acorn squash (about 2 lbs)
1 16-oz can whole cranberry sauce
1 tbsp honey
3 tsp Allspice (If you’re unsure about finding a gluten-free allspice, you can either check the gluten-free grocery guide or just substitute your favorite spices that you know are gluten-free. One of my favorite combinations is cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg.)
- Prick squash several times with a fork to allow steam to escape during cooking.
- Place on a microwavable plate or tray and microwave at HIGH 15-20 minutes until soft when pricked with a fork. At 9 minutes, turn squash over and finish cook time. Let stand 5 minutes.
- Cut each squash in half and remove seeds. Place cut side up in a 10-inch pie plate.
- In a small bowl, combine cranberry sauce, honey, and spices. Spoon into squash halves.
- Microwave at HIGH 4 to 5 minutes until heated through.
Baked Fish with Cheese
1 lb fish fillets (whatever is on sale)
1 tbsp tarragon
½ tsp sea salt
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup sour cream
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Arrange fish in a 2-quart oblong glass baking dish. Sprinkle with tarragon and seasoned salt. Dot with butter; cover with wax paper. Microwave at HIGH 2 to 3 minutes. Combine sour cream and cheese; spread on fish. Cover with wax paper and microwave at HIGH 2 to 3 minutes more until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.
Of course, keep in mind that microwaves, like kids and pets, all have their own temperament and “high.” Keep an eye on your foods to make sure they aren’t, you know, on fire.
How many times a week do you cook dinner in your microwave?