Imagine going back in time to the Plymouth Colony days during that one brisk autumn day when the first Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated. But imagine taking with you several microwave ovens.
Then get the ovens going for the busy Pilgrims and American Indians to zap their feast of turkey, geese, oysters, clams, beans, squash, corn and johnnycakes. You meet the legendary Squanto, dressed in his animal skin and turkey feathers, who earlier taught the settlers how to make use of corn and wild rice.
With all the hardship he and his fellow Indian farmers and Pilgrim students experienced in cultivating and hunting foods, he probably would consider the microwave a wonderful blessing sent from above, even if a shocker.
Back to the future . . .
Traditions in foods have been kept at the holiday table, but with so many mothers working outside the home these days, a little more advanced planning may be required to set up a bountiful harvest feast. This is where the microwave oven fits in.
Most people will likely still use the conventional oven to roast their birds or meats, but the microwave certainly produces bright-colored steamed vegetables and is a godsend for reheating dishes for late guests or making mulled cider. It also is being discovered for many candy and dessert recipes so appropriate for the holidays.
Aside from newer microwave units with more bells and whistles, there has been a tremendous increase in microwave accessories. With more than half of all American homes having microwave ovens, it is no wonder there has been a boom in the microwave cookware industry as well.
Some of the many innovative inventions include cookware-serve ware that doubles as storage ware; microwave-proof whisks; steamer racks; plastic holders that hold frozen food pouches, and now even a casserole similar to a pressure-cooker that cooks moist meats in a shorter time.
Microwave cookbooks forever abound in bookshelves. One that will guide you in basic techniques as well as holiday food preparation is "The Joy of Microwaving" (Prentice Hall: $24.95) from the Microwave Cooking Institute in Minneapolis. Ring-bound with an attractive gold and green cover, the book is actually a compilation of materials from past books in the Microwave Cooking Library series.
"The Joy of Microwaving" is designed as a feast for the eyes and the palate. For cooks who love pictures and step-by-step illustrations in a cookbook, this collection could certainly qualify. The photos are vivid and effective for understanding steps in preparation.
The book starts with a chapter on basic microwaving techniques and a technical background on microwaves and characteristics of microwave foods. It is important to read this chapter before you proceed with recipes since there are special materials and techniques used in covering, standing, testing for doneness, microwave utensils and adjusting for ingredients.
Other chapters are categorized into recipes for beverages, appetizers, meats and main dishes, eggs and cheeses, soups, vegetables and desserts. The last chapter features general microwave tips.
For this article we picked the vegetable chapter, which includes a vegetable chart that lists vegetable amounts, microwave times set on HIGH and procedure for preparation and cooking. Some of the recipes include calorie, sodium and cholesterol amounts per serving portion.
The recipes offer simplicity in ingredients and methods. We particularly like the smooth vegetable sauces produced in the microwave. A few of the vegetables, however, may be too tender for one's liking so that for those who prefer a little crispness in their vegetable, timing may be reduced slightly. This is applicable especially for people who have higher wattage ovens.
Here are some tasty microwave vegetable ideas to add to your holiday menu repertoire. It's just one more way to relieve you of the pressures and efforts in presenting a nice table so you can entertain at ease. BROCCOLI AND CAULIFLOWER WITH MUSTARD SAUCE
2 cups broccoli florets
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 cup salted water
1/3 to 1/2 cup nonfat milk
1 tablespoon flour
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
Dash onion powder
Combine broccoli and cauliflower with salted water in microwave-safe baking dish. Cover. Microwave on HIGH 8 to 11 minutes or until tender, stirring once. Drain and set aside.
In medium bowl or glass measure, blend nonfat milk, flour, mustard, salt and onion powder with wire whip. Microwave on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring every minute. Pour over vegetables. Toss to coat. Makes 4 servings. CARROTS WITH ONION, SOUR CREAM AND DILL
6 medium to large carrots, peeled and cut into julienne strips
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
1/4 teaspoon dill weed