When I moved back into my beloved dormitory amid the coronavirus pandemic this fall, I found myself suddenly very uncomfortable with the idea of using a communal kitchen. I had recently purchased a microwave, and I wondered how much I could cook in my dorm room with only my newly acquired appliance. The experimentation began. My progress was slowed by my alarmingly bad overall culinary skills, but I still managed to make a few objectively good meals.
Here are three of these tried and true recipes for complete meals made using only a microwave.
Breakfast: Fancy Oats
- Six or seven raspberries
- A teaspoon of assorted nuts
- Your favorite instant oatmeal (I used Kodiak Cakes Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Unleashed)
- Cook your favorite instant oatmeal in the microwave according to the instructions.
- Add raspberries and mixed nuts to your cooked instant oatmeal and enjoy!
Depending on the type of instant oatmeal you prefer, you may want to adapt the toppings. Kodiak Cakes Chocolate Chip Oatmeal is a rich, thick oatmeal with 14 grams of protein. I liked the added texture of mixed nuts and found that raspberries were a needed contrast to the intense chocolate. I did accidentally add a bit too much water to my oatmeal and, as a result, had to cook it longer, which likely affected the consistency.
Be careful to follow the unique instructions of the instant oats you choose!
Lunch: Easy Tacos
- Hard or soft taco shells
- Fat-free refried beans
- Canned corn
- Yellow rice (I used Mahatma Yellow Seasoned Rice)
- Taco Seasoning (I love Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix Original)
- Meat or meat substitute of your choice (I always grab Gardein The Ultimate Beefless Ground)
- Salt and pepper
- Add taco seasoning to taste to Gardein Beefless Ground, mix well and cook in a microwave safe dish according to package instructions. I use about two teaspoons of Gardein or other meat substitute per taco.
- Warm refried beans. For one taco, I used one heaping teaspoon of refried beans. If you are meal prepping, you can also go ahead and prepare the whole can of refried beans with salt, pepper or taco seasoning to taste. I sometimes like to warm the refried beans in the same dish I used to cook the Gardein Beefless Ground so that it absorbs some of the Beefless Ground and taco seasoning flavor.
- Rinse and drain the canned corn. I used ½ teaspoon to one teaspoon of corn per taco.
- Cook yellow rice according to instructions (see rice cooking saga below). I used one teaspoon of rice per taco.
- Assemble the tacos and enjoy!
This was my taco recipe this week based on the ingredients I had around but it could be immediately adjusted to include many more vegetables such as onion, tomato and lettuce as well as salsas, guacamole and cheese.
I found the most challenging aspect of this recipe to be preparing the yellow rice.
My Ridiculously Over-Complicated Attempt at Fluffy Yellow Rice in a Microwave:
- I added ½ cup of Mahatma Yellow Seasoned Rice and one cup of water to a microwave safe dish and cooked for 12 minutes checking frequently.
- At this point, the rice on the bottom was definitely nice and fluffy but the rice on the top was very chewy.
- I added another ½ cup of water to the rice. This time I cooked the rice for six minutes in a microwave safe dish with a plate over the top.
- The rice was definitely very fluffy if a bit overcooked at this stage.
- I cooked the rice without the plate covering it for a final two minutes.
It was a lot of work, and the rice actually ended up with a tiny bit of a sticky risotto consistency. Having tried both, I think that for microwave cooks like me with little to no culinary talent, Minute Yellow Rice is the way to go. It is ready in literally just one minute.
If you would like to use a meat substitute in your tacos, I would highly recommend Gardein The Ultimate Beefless Ground. It retains its shape and texture better when heated than some other substitutes such as MorningStar Farms Grillers Crumbles.
Dinner: Pasta with Red Sauce
- Mini farfalle (I like the Barilla brand)
- Marinara sauce (I love Bertolli Vineyard Marinara with Merlot Wine Sauce)
- Meat or meat substitute of your choice (I used my go-to Gardein The Ultimate Beefless Ground)
Directions for One Serving:
- Add one cup of mini farfalle pasta and 1 ½ water to a microwave safe dish.
- Microwave for up to 14 minutes checking frequently.
- Drain pasta and set aside.
- Add ¼ of Gardein Beefless Ground to a ¼ cup of Bertolli Vineyard Marinara Sauce and cook in microwave for two minutes.
- Combine sauce mixture with pasta and enjoy.
This was my first microwave cooking accomplishment and it is now my go-to weeknight dinner. I have found that mini farfalle cook best in the microwave and that meat substitutes are quicker and easier than dealing with raw meat on a weeknight when I am tired and doing too many things at once.
Curious about using your microwave for more quick and easy meals? These three recipes are a great starting point, but a quick search online will yield many more microwave meal recipes. It may be helpful to know the wattage of your microwave as some recipes may list this to help individual cooks adjust cooking times to their particular microwave. The FDA has simple instructions for how to easily find the wattage of your microwave here. Even with your wattage known, microwave cooking often necessitates a lot of experimentation and improvisation. Have fun with it!