Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to avoid the microwave for cooking your vegetables (at least for this week). This is the 5th Monday Mission in our Super Foods series.
If you already don’t use a microwave, you’re not left out. Your mission is to try a new recipe (or two) using this week’s Super Foods: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. Try a new seasoning or sauce for a side dish veggie. Get some packed-with-goodness cruciferous vegs into a main dish. I’ll provide a few Recipe Connections this week to get you inspired. (top photo source)
My Microwave Story, Part Two
What really got me jazzed about avoiding the microwave was the veggie thing. I read some research that claimed broccoli (our house’s first place prize for “most appearances as a side vegetable”) lost something like 85% of its nutrients when cooked in the microwave vs. steaming. What?!? You mean I’ve been eating 15% healthy broccoli, boringly cooked and eaten out of nutritive obligation, for years???? No way dude. I was not a happy camper.
Even if the research is flawed or has other sources that totally discredit it…or just disagree with it…I know that steaming broccoli is the healthiest way to eat it. Almost every source I can find agrees on that. So if there’s a chance the microwave oven is destroying even 25% of the healthy vitamins in there, I’m going to go with the stovetop. Why risk it?
That’s what I’m inviting you to do. Learn to cook veggies properly, especially broccoli and our other cruciferous friends from this week’s Super Food for Thought.
How to Cook Vegetables WITHOUT a Microwave
I cooked my veggies, like my mother before, in the microwave for my entire adult life until 6 months ago. So I’m new to this too. Let’s learn tips and timesavers together, shall we?
- Buy good vegetables. Frozen are fine, although I can’t stand the taste of frozen broccoli anymore. Frozen peas are a staple in our house, especially with little ones – finger foods! Fresh is good. Canned are no-nos!
- To steam or to boil?
- Boiling vegetables results in water full of nutrients and veggies limp and less healthy. Unless you’re going to drink the cooking water – gross – don’t boil your vegetables, please.
- Steaming retains almost all nutrients for almost all vegetables, AND it’s quicker than boiling because you don’t have to wait for so much water to heat.
- Get a steamer basket. I’ve seen them at dollar stores. They kind of look like something from a spaceship, but are made to fit most pots. If you don’t have one yet, don’t despair. I’m thinking that you can just put a cm. of water in the bottom of your narrowest pot and still end up steaming most of your vegetables, since they’ll be stacked on top of the few that are sitting in the water. (Don’t tell, but that’s what I always do with frozen peas because I’m too lazy to get out my steamer basket and big pot.) Worth a shot!
- You don’t need a lot of water. Tonight I put an inch or less in my pot, and before I could get my already-cut broccoli out of the bag in the fridge and into the steamer basket, the water was ready. See? No more time than the microwave, I promise.
- After the water is boiling, add the veggies. You can turn your heat down to medium or less, just enough to keep the water steaming but not wasting energy.
- Set the timer for 5 minutes.
- Check veggies. They should be “crisp-tender“, which means their color is enhanced (green veggies get gorgeous when steamed!), they are slightly tender when you stick a fork in them, but not limp. Green veggies will tell you when they’re overcooked – they start to look more like fall colors than vibrant springtime.
- Either serve immediately or use one of the following methods to stop the steaming process:
- Run cold water over the steamer basket (or in a colander) quickly and keep vegetables warm in a separate dish.
- Plunge veggies quickly into a bowl of cold water and return to hot pot to keep warm.
This is important, because even after you turn off the stove, the vegetables will continue to cook in the pot of hot water. If you’re like me and can’t perfectly time all the parts of dinner and the diners themselves to be ready at exactly the same time, your green beans will be limp before you know it if you just leave them in the pot. This happens with microwave steamed vegetables, too, so no complaining about extra steps!
You can season the vegetables before or after cooking, in the steamer basket or in a bowl. I find drizzling olive oil or melting butter, then adding salt and pepper is super easy right in the steamer basket. You can also throw on some crushed red pepper, cumin, or even chili powder for a little zing!
Timesaver: Just toss the water out of the pot you steam your veggies in and rinse it, then turn it upside down on your stove to dry. Done. Don’t waste your time putting it in your dish water! It’s not a “real” pot because it’s not “really” dirty, right?
You can do this! I’m excited to share other ideas (beyond “side vegetable”) for the cruciferous family with you this week. You might want to grab my RSS feed in the sidebar or sign up for an email subscription.
Related Recipe Connections:
For the Love of Broccoli
Try this Cauliflower Trick instead of Mashed Potatoes
Green Smoothies with Kale
Other Interesting Posts: