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MICROWAVE

Supper From Staples

April 08, 1993|MARCIA CONE and THELMA SNYDER

"What's for dinner?" may sound like a harmless question, but it just might unleash a whirlwind of fury. When the National Potato Board conducted small group discussions with 80 women in four cities, it discovered the high level of frustration that many women feel at dinner time.

The women were asked to express their feelings about the dinner hour by drawing a picture. Many chose the colors black, red and brown; one drawing showed a woman at the bottom of a tornado, and another featured a time bomb. Clearly, emotions about the dinner hour can run very high.

When the survey was extended to a telephone study of 500 women, it was discovered that women spend nearly twice as long preparing dinner as they would like. Although most spend 55 minutes preparing dinner, they say they'd rather limit it to 35 minutes.

Lack of time was cited by 63% of the respondents as a source of frustration; 69% said that dinner is their total responsibility, and they get little or no help from their families. And 65% said that they decided what to make for dinner the very same day.

This new study has inspired us to give you recipes that can be made in 35 minutes from staples you already have at home. This prevents the additional frustration of a last-minute trip to the grocery store.

And don't worry if you don't have every single item: If you don't have bread crumbs, use corn-flake crumbs, oat bran or crumbled-up soft bread. And though Parmesan cheese is desirable, it's not critical.

These are the staples you should keep on hand to make the following recipes: --28-ounce cans whole tomatoes with puree. --Dry spaghetti, egg noodles and other favorite pasta. --Olive oil. --Dried oregano, basil and parsley. --Frozen vegetables. --One-pound packages of ground beef or turkey, kept in freezer. --Hero rolls, kept in freezer. --Beef or chicken broth, canned or frozen homemade. --Milk, eggs and butter or margarine. --Flour. --Onions.

Replenish these supplies regularly, and you'll always have the ingredients to make spaghetti, hero sandwiches or a Swedish meatball dinner, with a vegetable on the side.

TOMATO AND MEATBALL SAUCE OVER SPAGHETTI 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with puree, coarsely chopped 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper Meatballs 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese 1 pound spaghetti, cooked and drained

Combine olive oil and garlic in 2 1/2-quart microwave-proof casserole. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 35 to 40 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and puree, basil, salt and pepper. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, turned back slightly on 1 side. Microwave on HIGH 5 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes.

Stir in Meatballs and cheese. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH until sauce is heated through, 2 to 4 minutes. Toss with cooked spaghetti. Makes 4 servings.

Note: If unable to find tomatoes with puree, stir in 2 tablespoons tomato paste when adding regular can of tomatoes and seasonings.

Meatballs 1 pound lean (90% lean) ground beef or turkey 1 egg, beaten 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Combine meat, egg, onion, parsley, oregano, bread crumbs, pepper and cheese in bowl of food processor or in large bowl. Mix well. Form into 1 1/2-inch balls.

Place Meatballs around outer rim of 10-inch microwave-proof pie plate. Cover with wax paper. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 6 to 8 minutes, turning Meatballs over and rotating dish one-quarter turn after 4 minutes. Drain and add to sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Variation

Substitute Swedish Meatballs for regular meatballs.

MEATBALL HOAGIES Tomato and Meatball Sauce 4 hero rolls, split lengthwise and toasted Grated Parmesan cheese

Spoon Meatballs and sauce over toasted rolls. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve. Makes 4 servings.

SWEDISH MEATBALLS 1 pound lean (90% lean) ground beef or 1/2 pound ground beef and 1/2 pound ground veal 1 egg, beaten 1 medium onion, finely chopped 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1/4 cup fine dry bread crumbs 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour 1 cup beef or chicken broth 2 tablespoons dry Sherry or vermouth, optional 2 to 4 tablespoons milk or whipping cream 1 pound egg noodles, cooked and drained

Combine meat, egg, onion, parsley, allspice, cloves, bread crumbs and pepper in bowl of food processor or in large bowl. Mix well. Form into 1 1/2-inch meatballs.

Place meatballs around outer rim of 10-inch microwave-proof pie plate. Cover with wax paper. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 6 to 8 minutes, turning meatballs over and rotating dish one-quarter turn after 4 minutes. Remove meatballs from pie plate and set aside.

Add butter to warm pie plate, stirring to melt. Stir in flour to make smooth paste. Stir in 1/4 cup broth and blend. Stir in remaining 3/4 cup broth and Sherry. Microwave on HIGH 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in milk to desired consistency, then add meatballs. Serve over hot egg noodles. Makes 4 servings.

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