No Time to Cook? No Problem – I Got Your Back!

This post is geared to all the people (parents, newlyweds, single men, and women) who successfully complete a busy day, but find themselves wondering - what the heck am I gonna eat for dinner.

Everyone is always on the breakfast bandwagon - we have heard it for years - breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And for the most part, most of my clients do a super terrific job at eating a balanced breakfast. After that, though - it's pretty much a crap shoot.

I had one client tell me that she was going to stop seeing me, and go back to Weight Watchers because she just didn't know what to eat for lunch!

Say What?

Lunch can be the absolute easiest meal of the day to figure out ....if you made dinner.

The best lunch is leftover dinner!

It's Easy Peasy!

The trouble is, no one makes dinner, wants to make dinner, or is too tired or rushed to make dinner. Who has time to cook?

So, this post is designed to help you cook all that food you have in your Freezer and Refrigerator - but just don't know how to cook it: Really Fast, Safely, and Have it Taste Remarkably Awesome! Here you will find answers to the following:

  1. What are some practical and basic tips that I need to know when using a microwave?
  2. Should I defrost fish or burgers/patties in the microwave?
  3. How do I defrost poultry, beef, and pork in the microwave?
  4. How do I defrost broth, soup, or stew in a microwave?
  5. What types of frozen veggies are best, and how do I defrost them in the microwave?
  6. How can I cook Fresh Veggies in the microwave?
  7. Now What? So my meat and veggies are thawed and you need fast, easy, and tasty recipes! The kids are going to soccer, football, ballet; it's tax season and you're working 400 hours per week; your commute was horrible; it's the end of the quarter and you're not sleeping- I get it - I hear you! Easy Recipes to Follow!

So maybe it's time you learn how to use your microwave creatively. But before you start pushing buttons, let's review a few practical and basic tips:

1. Remove food from packaging before defrosting. Do not use foam trays and plastic wraps because they are not heat stable at high temperatures. Melting or warping may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into food.

  • My Secret: Use Pyrex Dishes to Cook in the Microwave

2. Cook meat, poultry, egg casseroles, and fish immediately after defrosting in the microwave oven because some areas of the frozen food may begin to cook during the defrosting time. Do not hold partially cooked food to use later.

3. Cover foods with a lid or a microwave-safe plastic wrap to hold in moisture and provide safe, even heating.

  • My Secret: Cover with 1 large Wet Paper Towel. That’s right, I wet either 2 small or 1 large paper towel and cover the food that I put in the microwave.

4. If reheating foods in the microwave oven, allow standing time. Then, use a clean food thermometer to check that food has reached 165 °F.

5. More safety tips for heating, re-heating, or cooking in the microwave can be found on the United States Department of Agriculture site: http://bit.ly/2gig5Cg

6. Don't skip the flipping step. Microwave ovens have a tough time thawing evenly, even at reduced power levels, so quickly repositioning the food makes a big difference. This is noted below in detail when thawing poultry, beef, pork, and veggies.

7. For raw meat, you want it to be thawed but still cold throughout. If only a small portion is still icy, stop thawing and start cooking. With larger cuts of meat, there’s a good chance some portions will start to actually cook while most of the meat is still frozen solid - so avoid thawing any items that are heavier than 2 pounds.

8. On the other end of the scale, you also want to know when NOT to use the microwave to thaw, such as when you have a super-light items that tend to cook instead of thaw - even at reduced power levels. When it comes to cuts of meat thinner than an inch, or quick - cooking proteins like fish and shrimp, or individually wrapped beef or poultry burgers - simply place in a gallon size freezer bag, place the bag in a colander, and run cold water until thawed.

So here is your answer to those days when you get to about 4 - 5:00pm and think, "Holy S@#T, I never defrosted anything for dinner - and there's nothing to eat." But at the same time, you know you have Veggies, Chicken, Beef, or Pork  - in your freezer. No worries:

Here is the Best Cheat Sheet For

Thawing Frozen Foods, and Cooking Fresh Veggies

Chicken:

Bone-in Chicken Pieces, Frozen Together in a Pack

  • Microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes; separate the pieces and flip them over.
  • Microwave at 30% power, 1 minute for every 1 1/2 pounds (checking and flipping every minute).

Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Frozen Together in a Pack

  • Microwave at 30% power for 2 minutes; separate the pieces and flip them over.
  • Microwave at 20% power, 1 minute for every 1/2 pound (checking and flipping every minute).

Beef or Pork:

Bone-in Steaks or Chops (about 1 1/2 inches thick), Frozen Together in a Pack:

  • Microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes; separate the pieces and flip them over.
  • Microwave at 30% power, 1 minute for every pound (checking and flipping every minute).

Boneless Steaks or Chops (about 1 inch thick), Frozen Together in a Pack:

  • Microwave at 40% power for 2 minutes, flip over and separate any pieces that are stuck together.
  • Microwave at 30% power, 1 minute for every 1/2 pound (checking and flipping every minute).

Ground Chicken, Turkey, Beef, or Pork, Frozen in Block:

  • Microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes; remove all the thawed parts that come off easily and set aside.
  • Microwave at 30% power, 1 minute for every 1/2 pound (checking and removing thawed parts every 30 seconds).

Broth, Soup, Stew:

Broth, Frozen in a Quart Container:

  • Run sealed container under hot water to release the frozen block into a microwave-safe bowl, My Go To: Pyrex Bowls
  • Microwave on high (100% power) for 3 minutes; stir well.
  • Microwave on high (100% power) for 3 minutes (stirring every minute).

Stew, Frozen in a Quart Container:

  • Run sealed container under hot water to release the frozen block into a microwave-safe bowl, My Go To: Pyrex Bowls
  • Microwave on high (100% power) for 5 minutes; stir well.
  • Microwave on high (100% power) for 3 minutes (checking and stirring every minute).

Vegetables:

My favorite vegetables to defrost in the microwave include String beans, Cauliflower (Including cauliflower rice), Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Artichoke hearts, Butternut Squash, Corn, and Peas. A plus side to buying frozen - even organic veggies are less expensive when frozen!

Packaged Chopped Spinach, Frozen in a Block:

  • Microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes, pull apart, and break into smaller chunks.
  • Microwave at 50% power, 1 minute for every 4 ounces (checking and stirring every minute).

Once Spinach is defrosted, toss with sautéed leeks, onion, garlic, mushrooms in a non-stick frying pan with a little EVOO. Don’t forget to add an little acid (lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, red or white wine vinegar, or Balsamic Vinegar) to allow the iron to be more bio-available.

Packaged Chopped Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts,Artichoke Hearts Frozen in a Block:

  • Microwave at 50% power for 2 minutes, separate pieces as much as possible.
  • Microwave at 50% power, 1 minute for every 5 ounces (checking and stirring every minute).

Like the spinach, once veggies are defrosted, toss them with salt, pepper, EVOO, and a flavored vinegar and roast them on a jelly roll pan lined with parchment for 20-minutes at 400°F Feel free to add chopped leeks, onion, peppers, mushrooms, or even fresh spinach thats on its way out – whatever you have available!

EAT DOWN YOUR REFRIGERATOR!

Don't waste food!

Frozen Artichoke Hearts First Defrosted in Microwave, Then Roasted.

Potatoes: Red, Yellow, Sweets, and Yams:

  • Scrub the potato, and prick several time with the tines of a fork. Place in a Pyrex Bowl and cover with 1 large wet paper towel.
  • Microwave at 100% for 5 minutes. Turn over each potato
  • Microwave at 100% for 5 more minutes.
  • When the potato is soft, remove from the microwave, and cut in half lengthwise.
  • Just like your veggies, you can toss them with salt, pepper, EVOO, and a flavored vinegar and roast them on a jelly roll pan lined with parchment in the oven for 20-minutes at 400°F with leeks, onion, peppers, mushrooms – whatever you have available! I did this with yams on Thanksgiving - added salt and dried Rosemary - people were taking leftovers home like there was no tomorrow!

Fresh Vegetables:

  • Wash and trim fresh veggies
  • Place in a Pyrex Bowl
  • Cover with a large wet paper towel
  • Microwave at 100% for 6 minutes.
  • Place to the side and let cool
  • Toss with EVOO, Vinegar (red, white, balsamic, apple cider) or a Flavored Vinegar and season to taste.
  • Easy Peasy!

Now What?

Time For Some Easy Peasy Recipes!

Cooking Your Thawed Fish, Chicken, Beef, and Pork

Once your fish, chicken, beef or pork is thawed, pour a little EVOO into an ovenproof pan (Pyrex or Corningware), and toss your protein in the oil.

  • Remember – you don’t have to be afraid of oils and fats – dietary cholesterol does not lead to high blood cholesterol – refined carbohydrates and alcohol lead to elevated blood cholesterol. But that's a subject for another day! I like olive oil because it's a great source of oleic acid, a natural anti-oxidant which helps maximize cell to cell communication.
  • To help with clean-up, sometimes I'll line my Pyrex or Corningware Baking Dishes with unbleached parchment paper!
  • If you plan on adding your potatoes, yams, or sweets, or veggies to the pan with the thawed fish, chicken, beef, or poultry - instead of using the Pyrex or Corningware Baking Dishes - use a  jelly roll pan lined with parchment.
  • For fish, you might want to place it in a make-shift “foil bag” and steam with sliced lemon, EVOO, and spices. But if it's breaded, just add it along with your potatoes, and/or veggies.

Next, season your protein with salt, pepper, EVOO, and any spice you want: basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, onions, leeks, garlic, lemon juice or a red, white or balsamic vinegar. You can even toss your protein in an Organic Balsamic Italian Dressing, Terriyaki and Soy Sauce, or my new fave: Sir Kensington Srirach Mayonaisse.

Bake your protein at 400°F for 20 minutes, or until safely cooked. It's a good idea to set the timer so you don't get distracted and overcook your dinner!

Aside from the vegetables you defrosted in the microwave, you can add a green salad or  fresh veggies that you cooked in the microwave. Remember: Half your plate should be veggies.

And Make Extra: The Best Lunch is Leftover Dinner!

Want to learn more great tricks to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and eat right - in spite of how busy you are?

It's Easy Peasy!

 Contact me at B3yond Nutrition LLC 973.852.3335.

Buon Appetito!

&

Happy, Healthy Holidays from B3yond Nutrition!

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