Microwave Cooking: Tips & Recipes (cont.)

Plastic Wrap Concerns

What about cooking foods in or under plastic wrap - is it safe?

"There's no question that chemicals in plastic can migrate from the wrap into the food it comes in contact with," editors with the Environmental Nutrition newsletter wrote in a recent article. "More debatable is what effect these chemicals have on your health."

It seems that one particular resin that helps make the wrap stretchy and clingy -- polyvinyl chloride (PVC) -- contains the plasticizers (DEHA diethylhexyladipate) that may be linked to hormonal abnormalities in animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, maintains that the amount of plasticizer that may migrate into food is safe.

An article in the FDA Consumer magazine asserts that DEHA exposure may occur when eating certain foods that have been wrapped in plastics -- especially fatty foods such as meat and cheese -- but that the exposure levels are very low.

"The levels of the plasticizer that might be consumed as a result of plastic film use are well below the levels showing no toxic effect in animal studies," the article says.

In its April 2004 issue, Environmental Nutrition named two wraps that do not contain the plasticizers: Glad Cling Wrap and Saran Cling Plus Clear.

But no matter what plastic wrap you buy, it makes sense to avoid using it in the microwave because other options are easily available. Cover your food with a sheet of wax paper or microwave-safe paper towels, or use a hard plastic cover made especially for the microwave (these sell for a few dollars at kitchen stores).

3 Microwave Recipes

Here's a side dish perfect for summer, an easy vegetarian entree, and a dynamite dessert.

Summer Succotash

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Members: Journal as 1/2 cup vegetables without added fat + 1/2 cup starchy foods and legumes without added fat.

2 cups corn (frozen or cut off the cob)
2 cups shelled edamame (green soybeans, available frozen)
1 large, ripe tomato, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon whipped butter or less-fat margarine (optional)

  • Add corn and edamame to microwave-safe dish and toss to blend. Microwave on HIGH for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are nice and hot.
  • Stir in the chopped tomato, salt and pepper, and whipped butter or margarine if desired.

Yield: 6 servings

Per serving: 176 calories, 13 g protein, 20 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat, .8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5.3 g fiber, 23 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 30%.

Barley Eggplant Bake

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Members: Journal as 1 1/2 cups "hearty stew, chili, bean soup" OR 1 portion "light frozen pasta or rice dish with meat or fish or vegetarian with light sauce" + 1 ounce low-fat cheese.

The trick here is cooking the barley ahead of time so that all you have to do is assemble the dish and pop in the microwave.

3 cups cooked pearl barley (cook in chicken broth for color and flavor)
3/4 sweet or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 small eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (flavored olive oil works well)
1 1/2 teaspoon Garlic & Herb Mrs. Dash (salt-free herb seasoning blend)
Black pepper (to taste)
3 ounces reduced-fat cheddar cheese (about 3/4 cup shredded or 4 thin slices)

  • Spoon cooked barley evenly into the bottom of a microwave-safe, 9-inch, deep-dish pie plate (or similar casserole dish). Spread half of the onion slices evenly over the barley. Layer the eggplant slices to cover the barley completely.
  • Drizzle eggplant and rice mixture with the olive oil, then sprinkle the Garlic & Herb blend over the top. Spread the remaining onion slices over the top of the eggplant. Cover with a microwave-safe cover and cook on HIGH about 12 minutes (the eggplant should be soft and cooked throughout).
  • Layer the sliced or shredded cheese over the top and cook on HIGH, covered or uncovered, for exactly 1 minute longer (just until cheese is nicely melted).

Yield: 3 servings

Per serving: 341 calories, 13 g protein, 52 g carbohydrate, 10 g fat, 3.8 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 10 g fiber, 157 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 26%.

Fruit and Cream Crisp

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic Members: Journal as 1 portion medium dessert + 1 portion fresh fruit.

2 tablespoons light cream cheese
1 teaspoon sugar or Splenda
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sliced or diced fresh fruit (like peaches, berries, or cherry halves)
A pinch or two of ground cinnamon
1/3 cup low-fat granola
1/8 cup light vanilla ice cream or nonfat frozen yogurt (optional)

  • Add cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla to a medium/large microwave-safe dessert cup (like a Pyrex custard cup) and stir with a fork to blend. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly on bottom of the cup, then top with the fruit of choice.
  • Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top of your fruit, then cover with granola. Cover with a microwave-safe cover and microwave on HIGH until fruit and cream cheese are lightly bubbling (1 1/2 to 2 minutes). Serve as is or slightly cooled, or top the warm dessert with a cookie scoop of light vanilla ice cream or nonfat frozen yogurt.

Yield: 1 serving

Per serving (with sugar): 290 calories, 7 g protein, 49 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 4 g fiber, 186 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 25 g.

Please see our entire collection of healthy recipes.

Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; © 2006 Elaine Magee

Published June 02, 2006.

SOURCES: The Food Lover's Companion, 2nd edition, 1995, by Sharon Tyler Herbst. Environmental Nutrition, April 2004. FDA Consumer magazine, Nov-Dec 2002. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, November 2003: Volume 83, Issue 14, 1511-1516. Timothy H. Cole, executive vice president, Belvoir Media Group. Janet McDonald, public affairs specialist, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, San Francisco District Office.

©2006 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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