You know it as a reheat machine— a place to pop a frozen burrito and warm up last night’s leftovers (or observe the explosion ballistics of a marshmallow). But your microwave could be doing more— like whipping up a two-minute breakfast sandwich or steaming vegetables faster than the stove. In fact, microwaved meals may even be healthier: “Because things cook faster in the microwave, they tend to hold their nutrients better,” says Sabrina Sexton, a lead instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City. Plus, nuked foods don’t require you to use cooking fat, so they’re also often lower in calories. Read these simple microwave hacks before you hit start on your next meal.

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herbs

1) Dry the herbs you forgot to use

When the fresh basil, oregano, or thyme you’ve got in the fridge starts to look a little sad, try this trick to add more flavor to your meals. After removing any stems, rinse your herbs then pat them dry. Arrange them on a paper towel, cover with a second paper towel, and microwave on high in 30-second intervals until herbs are dry. Store in an airtight container.

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nuts

2) Toast your favorite nuts

Turn raw nuts into crispy salad, yogurt, or cereal toppers almost instantly. Spread half a cup of nuts, like almonds, walnuts, or pecans, in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave in one-minute intervals, stirring in between, until nuts are toasted. It’ll take about two to four minutes. Then transfer the nuts to a paper towel to cool.

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garlic cloves

3) Roast garlic cloves

Cut the top off a head of garlic so that its cloves are exposed, then place it in a microwave-safe dish. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and add two tablespoons of water to the bottom of the dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and cook on medium power for about seven minutes. Let the dish stand for a minute before unwrapping.

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breakfast sandwich

4) Make a kick-ass breakfast sandwich in 120 seconds

For simple scrambled eggs, beat a large egg with one tablespoon of water in a coffee mug. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir, then cook for another 15–30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper, and you’re done. Want a breakfast sandwich that blows fast-food options out of the water? Try this...

Bacon-Blue Cheese Breakfast Sandwich

Ingredients: 

  • 2 slices bacon, cut in half
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 whole-wheat hamburger bun
  • 1⁄2 cup torn lettuce
  • 2 tbsp reduced-fat blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 large or 3 small tomato slice(s)
  • 1 slice red onion

Directions:

  1. Lay bacon out on small microwave-safe plate.
  2. Spray a small microwave-safe bowl with olive oil spray. Add eggs.
  3. Place paper towel over bacon. Cook in 20-second intervals (between intervals, use a knife to push any set portions of eggs to the center, allowing runny eggs to move to the edges) until eggs are set.
  4. Remove eggs. Continue cooking bacon until done, rotating as needed to cook evenly.
  5. Place bun bottom on plate. Add lettuce, eggs, blue cheese, tomato, bacon, onion, and top of bun.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories: 353, Protein: 24g, Carbs: 25g, Fat: 18g

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fish

5) Steam fish faster than ever

Place a thawed fish fillet on a microwave-safe plate. Top it with three tablespoons each of lemon juice and either water or wine, then season with salt and pepper. Cover the plate and cook for two to three minutes, until the fish is flaky. For a side of steamed vegetables, add two tablespoons of water to two cups of chopped broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, or green beans. Cover the veggies with a microwave-safe vented lid and heat for two to three minutes. Done.

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broccoli

6) Sweat vegetables (in case you were wondering)

When a recipe tells you to “sweat” vegetables (which basically means to sauté at a lower heat), speed things up by delegating this task to your microwave. Toss chopped carrots, celery, onions, garlic, and shallots in a tablespoon of oil and microwave for three to five minutes.

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