Metro-East Living

Still learning what to cook, and not cook, in the microwave

Microwave Risotto with Ham, Peas and Cheese
Microwave Risotto with Ham, Peas and Cheese

I am old enough to remember when there were no microwave ovens. I was an adult before I saw my first Amana Radarange, though the countertop model had been out since 1965. Evidently, I didn’t know anyone who had enough money (or the desire to experiment) to buy one then.

For those who are too young to know better, for decades, a microwave wasn’t a standard appliance in a house or apartment, like your stove and refrigerator. So, you had to bring your own — and it took up a lot of real estate on a kitchen counter. My first one had a probe for cooking (never used) and more bells and whistles than I ever figured out.

I recall thinking that this device would change my life and make cooking so much easier. That proved to be more wrong than right.

I learned that you shouldn’t make meatloaf in a microwave, despite the recipe book that came with the oven saying it would be wonderful. It was my first lesson: microwaves don’t brown food. Meat comes out gray. Not appealing.

A friend of mine overcooked a standing crown rib roast for a dinner party in her microwave. (What was she thinking?) She hid the color it turned out by pouring an au jus she made on the stovetop over the whole thing. We all smiled and gnawed on our rubbery food.

Today, most of us are happy to successfully make popcorn and heat up stuff like soup and coffee. On vacation a number of years ago, I stayed in a rented cabin that had no microwave. I actually panicked for a moment.

I make all my pasta and rice in the microwave; I melt chocolate and heat up maple syrup. And, of course, those TV dinners of yore now get popped in the microwave.

So, when did a story called “6 Recipes You Should Be Making in Your Microwave (Really!),” I decided to share two of them here. You can see the rest at

Contact me at, 618-239-2664 and follow me on Twitter @BoyleSuzanne. Write to 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427.

Microwave Risotto with Ham, Peas and Cheese says: Get creamy, dreamy risotto without the hassle (or the mess) with this killer microwave version made even more amazing with ham, peas and Parmesan.

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup uncooked short-grain Arborio rice

2 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 cup diced ham

1 cup frozen peas

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (2 ounces)

In 2-quart microwavable bowl, place 2 tablespoons of the butter, the onion, garlic and pepper. Cover tightly with plastic wrap; microwave on high 2 to 4 minutes, or until onion is soft. Add rice; stir to coat with butter. Cover; set aside.

In 4-cup microwavable measuring cup, place broth. Microwave uncovered on high 5 minutes, or until hot. Pour into rice mixture; stir. Cover tightly with plastic wrap; microwave on High 5 minutes.

Stir mixture. Cover tightly; microwave on medium (50 percent) 12 minutes. Stir in ham and frozen peas; continue to cook on medium 5 to 7 minutes longer or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed.

Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the cheese. Serve immediately.

Yield 4 servings.

Tips: Instead of a 2-quart bowl, use an 8-cup glass measuring cup. It’s a great workhorse to have in your microwave cooking toolkit — measure and microwave all in one container.

Like it hot? Substitute crushed red pepper flakes for the ground black pepper.

Easy Microwave Chicken Enchiladas

From We take Mexican food seriously, and these microwave enchiladas are seriously amazing. We’re talking bubbly, cheesy, just-like-the-real-deal chicken enchiladas, 20 minutes start to finish. Tasting is believing.

1 can (19 ounces) mild enchilada sauce

2 cups shredded deli rotisserie chicken

1 tablespoon (from 0.85-ounce package) chicken taco seasoning mix

1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend (6 ounces)

8 (6-inch) corn tortillas

3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

3/4 cup sour cream

In a medium bowl, mix 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce, the chicken, seasoning mix and 3/4 cup of the cheese.

Spray 8-inch square (2-quart) microwavable baking dish with cooking spray. Place 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce in bottom of dish. Working with 1 tortilla at a time, fill with heaping 1/4 cup chicken mixture, and roll to seal; place in baking dish seam-side down. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Pour remaining enchilada sauce over tortillas; top with remaining 3/4 cup cheese.

Microwave uncovered on high 9 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through. Garnish with cilantro; serve with sour cream.

Yield 4 servings.

Tips: This recipe is family-friendly but can be easily spiced up using either medium or hot enchilada sauce in lieu of mild. Shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese can be substituted for Mexican cheese blend in this recipe, if desired.