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goodbye microwave  RSS feed

 
r ranson
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For a very long time, I didn't have a microwave.  I'm a bit scared of them, as I've seen some pretty nasty things including the famous incident of the exploding curry.

Then, for reasons that don't need exploring at this juncture, we needed a microwave in the house.  After a few years, I found myself using it once or twice a week.  Now that reason is gone, so yesterday, I unplugged the microwave and stashed it in the basement.  The microwave alcove is now a delicious display of tea and tea making goodies.

There are a few foods I've come to rely on the microwave for heating up.  Could you help me think of non-nuke methods for heating these foods?

leftover pasta
leftover pasta casserole - seems a shame to turn on a huge oven to heat up such a small portion.
leftover rice
cloth rice bag for applying heat to sour muscles

This got me thinking, we now have several generations of people raised by the microwave.  I know people my age who have never even owned a kettle, level on boiled one.  The microwave does all the cooking for them. 
Anyone else trying to get away from the nuke-box?  What foods are you having trouble adapting to a non-microwave kitchen?
 
Casie Becker
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I think pretty much all of these could be heated in a pan of hot water on the stove, except perhaps the rice bag. Put the item you want to heat into a container that sits in a shallow pot of hot water. For faster heating (and possibly a method that would work with the rice bag) put a lid on the container and steam your leftovers.
 
r ranson
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What's a rice bag?

So, for pasta casserole, I would put the single serving in a small, heat proof dish, put dish in a pot of water, so that the water doesn't go over the side of the dish?

I wonder if that would make things too moist?  Then again, that would be a small price to pay for not having to turn on the big oven just to heat up a single serving.  I can't stand the idea of wasting all that energy.  When the oven gets turned on, it's chockablock full of food, not just a few bites.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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R.Ranson Wrote:
What's a rice bag?

R.Ranson Wrote:
cloth rice bag for applying heat to sour muscles
  This portion of this message will self destruct (or not) at your leisure.

The only thing I use the microwave for is a similar Rice Bag (several of them) for sore muscles.

I feel the same way about Microwaves.  When I build a rocket stove mass heater I plan to have a couple little oven alcoves in it that I can heat up stuff, including the rice bags.


The only thing that I can suggest that makes it simpler to reheat these things is a double boiler
 
r ranson
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:R.Ranson Wrote:
What's a rice bag?

R.Ranson Wrote:
cloth rice bag for applying heat to sour muscles
  This portion of this message will self destruct (or not) at your leisure.

The only thing I use the microwave for is a similar Rice Bag (several of them) for sore muscles.

I feel the same way about Microwaves.  When I build a rocket stove mass heater I plan to have a couple little oven alcoves in it that I can heat up stuff, including the rice bags.


Oh, I see!  Silly me, I was thinking boil-in-the-bag rice for eating. 
Love the idea of the heating alcoves in the rocket stove.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Love the idea of the heating alcoves in the rocket stove.
I figure a few little alcoves, with doors, near the manifold but in the mass bench would take in the most heat and be available for such uses.  I got the idea from a RMH youtube vid.  His was over his burn tunnel, I think.  I'll try to find it.
 
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For the casserole, what about a toaster oven?  They're kind of a pain with how much space they take up, but we use ours fairly often for stuff like warming leftover pizza and frozen pasties.  This is assuming it's a fairly thick casserole like a baked mac and cheese, rather than something runny like a shepherd's pie.  You could probably load those into a ramekin or something similar, though; I haven't tried that.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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the youtube vid
 
r ranson
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A toaster oven might be the way to go.  It's another one of those appliances that didn't get replaced when it broke because we only used it once or twice a month.  But now, without the microwave, it might get used more often. 

I just discovered another food I've been relying on my microwave for reheating:  Frozen falafels.  I've been making a big batch of falafels, then freezing the extra. 

Today I have the big oven on for my second attempt at cooking socca.  While it's on, I decided to see what was in the freezer that I would normally put in the microwave to reheat.  Today, it's a meat pie and a handful of falafels - aka, breakfast of champions. 
 
Casie Becker
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R Ranson wrote:What's a rice bag?

So, for pasta casserole, I would put the single serving in a small, heat proof dish, put dish in a pot of water, so that the water doesn't go over the side of the dish?

I wonder if that would make things too moist?  Then again, that would be a small price to pay for not having to turn on the big oven just to heat up a single serving.  I can't stand the idea of wasting all that energy.  When the oven gets turned on, it's chockablock full of food, not just a few bites.


I think steaming it would run the risk of making things too moist. Often leftovers are a little dry anyways, so that could be a plus. But if it is a concern, heat the water first and then put the dish in the water with no lid. You'll minimize the amount of time you need to leave the leftovers in the water and moisture won't be trapped in the container.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I've been off-grid for years at our school, so I haven't been using a microwave.

I use a rubber hot water bottle for my feet in bed in winter. It should work like your hot rice bag. I heat the water in a pot on the stove.

Heating leftovers is a little bit of a pain, but we've been doing it since time began and only got to relying on a microwave recently. Dammit, yes, you've gotta wash a pan, and yes, some of the leftovers will stick, and they might not have the same texture you expected. You can get used to it.

Sometimes I heat leftovers the same way I cook porridge to avoid sticking & burning in the pot. I put an inch or less of water in the bottom of the pressure cooker, then put the porridge and water, or the leftovers, in a stainless steel bowl or "tiffin" container standing in the water, close the pressure lid, and heat it up for a few minutes.
 
Dan Boone
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This is not helpful, but it reminds me that my mother's classic cast iron wood cook stove dating to the first quarter of the 20th century had a "warming oven" -- essentially a bit of metal cabinetry along the back of the stove, perhaps 14 inches deep and similarly tall, the full width of the stove and raised above the cooking surface maybe 18 inches.  It was a warm-but-not-hot place where, depending on whether the stove was really cranking or just warm with residual heat and a few embers in the firebox, you could reheat leftovers or get bread to rise on a windy winter day when nowhere else in the cabin was warm enough to make the yeast happy.  It would have been a perfect place to warm your rice bag, at least when the stove was really going.  

Isn't it interesting that one of the major use cases for a microwave oven (reheating leftovers) is a function that was designed into the pinnacle of wood-fired kitchen stove technology 100 years ago and (I believe) retained in select early gas cooking ranges, but lost somewhere in the transition to cheaper gas and electric ranges?

 
Bill Erickson
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Roberto pokachinni wrote:the youtube vid


I've embedded the video for you.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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I've embedded the video for you. 
/Thanks Bill.  I should have done that.                    


Dan wrote: 
This is not helpful, but it reminds me that my mother's classic cast iron wood cook stove dating to the first quarter of the 20th century had a "warming oven" -- essentially a bit of metal cabinetry along the back of the stove, perhaps 14 inches deep and similarly tall, the full width of the stove and raised above the cooking surface maybe 18 inches. 
  These are great.  I'm not sure it would be warm enough for the rice bag, but it might be.  I didn't have rice bags at the time I used one.  My ex and I had one of these.  We would get yogurt going in it, keep dishes warm for large meals and potluck dinners, and rise bread.  This sort of thing could easily be built into (or above) a RMH or any woodstove area design, so it is helpful
 
Bill Erickson
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I follow Wardee Harmon from the Traditional Cooking School website for her awesome cooking and fermented foods information. She has got me interested in using an Instant Pot as a replacement for the microwave (she is not a fan of the old Rf for cooking) for many common reheating tasks, not to mention the pressure cooking and multiple uses the thing has.

I have started my journey with the 6 quart model (that's an affiliate link for the empire) which she recommends, and depending upon the household size an 8 quart model (another affiliate link for the empire) is recommended.

These are the 7 in 1 models that have a bunch of functions for cooking, reheating and even making your own yogurt. Yes, it is another appliance on the counter, but it takes up a whole lot less space than a microwave. I think the RMH is the better choice for heating up the old rice bag for pain relief, actually I don't think an Instant Pot would do the trick there at all.







 
Roberto pokachinni
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She has got me interested in using an Instant Pot as a replacement for the microwave (she is not a fan of the old Rf for cooking) for many common reheating tasks, not to mention the pressure cooking and multiple uses the thing has. 

My mom saw the above image on the screen and her shop-o-mania jumped into gear and she wants one.  Sigh.  Not that I'm saying it's a bad idea to get one, but I should know better than to have a cooking product on the screen when she walks by.  Ha ha.


I think the RMH is the better choice for heating up the old rice bag for pain relief, actually I don't think an Instant Pot would do the trick there at all. 
  I agree.  Although I like the design in the video that you embeded for me, I think that alcoves that are not open to the flame would work equally well for baking/heating, if they were in the right placement (and particularly for the rice bag which is usually covered with flammable material).  But that's just my thinking, again, and not from experience. I've yet to build an RMH. 
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Another thing that came to mind, is that I often will sort of turn leftovers into something else when re-using them.  For instance, I will take leftover potatoes and veggies and toss them into a pan that has got some onions and garlic rocking in oil, and then once the veggies are warm, then toss in some eggs. 

Lasagna soup is good!  I imagine the same could be said for Turkey Pot Pie, or whatever else in the casserole department.
 
Krista Marie Schaus
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My Italian grandmother informs me the best way to heat up any type of leftover pasta is in a frying pan with a little olive oil.
 
Andy Moffatt
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In the last couple of months we have given away our microwave, TV, electric crock pot, an extra fridge and a freezer. We don't really miss any of those things, we have a radio instead of having the TV blaring all day.
 
Bryan Headrick
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I second the instant pot suggestion.

For the past few months that I've owned one, I've basically cooked all my meals in it.

Not only has it removed the need for a microwave, I haven't even needed to use my oven or stove top ( though admittedly, I'll eventually need to use my oven).

It's a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, a steamer, a warmer, and it also sautes.

There are, of course, other brands of multicooker out there that are as good or better, but the Instant Pot is definitely a worthwhile purchase.
 
Nicole Alderman
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We haven't used a microwave in 4 years (it resides in our garage). I recently discovered that I can heat up a lot of foods successfully on medium-low in a skillet with a lid on. I discovered this when trying to heat up microwave meals (lazagnas, burritoes, tamales) without using the oven and heating up the house. It takes around 30 minutes to an hour to heat up something from frozen this way (I'd usually throw it in the skillet, put the lid on, then put my toddler down to nap. By the time I got him asleep, my food was cooked).

This method works well for spaghetti squash in sauce, as well as most anything I worry about either drying out or getting too moist via the other modes of reheating mentioned by others. Since the lid is on the skillet, the food retains it's own moisture content, and it heats up in pretty much the same way as an oven.  Since it's cooking on medium-low, food doesn't really stick to the bottom of the skillet, either (though sometimes I put some oil or butter on the skillet before adding food, just to make sure it doesn't stick...and to make it extra yummy).

I don't know how well this method would work for normal spaghetti noodles. I haven't had wheat noodles in a long time, but I know my rice noodles become rather soggier this way, though I have re-heated mac and cheese in this manner (adding a little more milk &/or butter) and my toddler and I had no problems eating it.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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I use the microwave for heating my bowl of soup. When I make soup, I make a lot of it, then I freeze it in portions. I take out the soup for the day early, so it can de-freeze (is that the word?) and when it's time for lunch I heat it in the microwave for 3 minutes and that's all. Every other possible way I know for heating the soup takes more time, and/or more things to clean afterwards.

What is the important reason for not using a microwave? What's the difference when using a 'toaster oven', an ordinary (electric) oven instead of the microwave? They are all using a lot of energy. So there must be another reason for not using a microwave .... I heard stories of getting cancer or other diseases ... is that true? Is there  evidence? Or are there still other reasons?
 
r ranson
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Inge Leonora-den Ouden wrote:
What is the important reason for not using a microwave? What's the difference when using a 'toaster oven', an ordinary (electric) oven instead of the microwave? They are all using a lot of energy. So there must be another reason for not using a microwave .... I heard stories of getting cancer or other diseases ... is that true? Is there  evidence? Or are there still other reasons?


I don't know how much we can go into this without getting bumped to the Cider Press.  I think microwaves are about as controversial as GMOs, there's lots of science to support both sides of the debate and a great deal of money has gone into promoting microwaves as 'safe and efficient'.   

Staying away from the larger issue, here are some of the things that I based my dislike of the microwave on. 
1. It's not a traditional method of cooking.  It's only a recent invention and there isn't hundreds of years of data to back up it's safe over the long term.
2. It can contribute to dirty electrisity in the home. 
3. I've read several studies where they want to discover the effects of a degraded myelin sheath.  They take healthy animals and they feed them microwaved food for a few months, this degrades the myelin sheath (nerve insulation). 

4. The original reason I gave up the microwave the first time is it broke and it cost money to get a new one.

5.  The reason I gave up the microwave this time is because I wanted somewhere lovely to store my tea stuff and the microwave was in the way.
 
John Polk
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My Italian grandmother informs me the best way to heat up any type of leftover pasta is in a frying pan with a little olive oil.

I whole heartedly agree with your grandmother.
After dinner, I mix the leftover pasta and sauce.  Simple fry pan reheat tomorrow.
Like a good soup, stew, or beans, it always tastes better the next day.

I have started my journey with the 6 quart model (that's an affiliate link for the empire) which she recommends, and depending upon the household size an 8 quart model

That looks like the one thing I need to add to my kitchen.
One huge question:  (I am single.)  Would the 5 qt version suffice for cooking one whole chicken?
Or would I need the 6 or 8 quart version?
I guess that I could just remove leg quarters/wings, and cook the carcass by itself...but curious.

 
Bill Erickson
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John, I haven't tried cooking a whole chicken in it yet. I do know she showed a chicken being cooked in one of her recipes, but I couldn't tell you if it was her 6 or 8 quart. Like you said though, you can always cut it up and go that route.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
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R Ranson wrote:
2. It can contribute to dirty electrisity in the home. 
...

if it's because of the 'dirty electricity' there are many more things I have to get rid of ... One of the things I am using at this very moment (without it I would not be able to communicate with you )
 
r ranson
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Yeh, I know.  It's difficult in this day and age with so much electronic technology.  As each electronic thing in my house breaks, I do some major thinking about that item.  Does it bring me joy?  Is it necessary?  Does it improve my life or detract from it?  The microwave didn't pass muster, but I suspect I'll get a new blender when mine goes because I really value making my own almond milk and hummus. 

The computer is a whole different thing for me.  I very nearly didn't replace my last one.  So much of the internet is filled with grumpy people that I just wasn't certain it was worth my time anymore.  But then, I realised, without a computer, I would miss out on lovely places like permies.com.  When I replaced my computer, I made sure to get one that is easy to maintain and will last at least 10 years (I hate shopping). 

As for the microwave, I really missed it yesterday.  I wanted to heat up some frozen cabbage rolls.  I couldn't figure out how to do this in the pot without it burning but the idea of heating up the big oven for just a couple of portions was daunting.  Then I realised, that heating up the big oven would produce enough heat in the house that I wouldn't need to light the fire.  So I put the rolls in the oven and made an apple crumble (no use wasting the heat).  It was very nice.
 
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Just to encourage those who want to and haven't given up their microwave....take the leap and you will find other ways.

I've never had one (through more than forty years of homesteading and raising kids and animals....) and only used one elsewhere when there were no other options...San Francisco's downtown hostel, and a rare few friends who saw it as an only option for reheating a cup of coffee.

I can't comment with any certainty about what it does to our food, etc but the action seems pretty unnatural. 

When did we all get in such a hurry? 

 
Dave Hunt
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We ditched the microwave about 5 years ago and haven't missed it.
We solve reheating left over rice by turning it into our version of fried rice with a little oil, onion, garlic and an egg or two in a pan. 
I happen to enjoy eating cold pasta but my Italian wife also heats it with a little olive oil in a skillet. 
Recently we discovered left over pancakes heat up nicely in the toaster. 
Best part of ditching the microwave is all the extra room on the counter!
 
Alex Sonnenschein
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Stove top, pot, water, fire, stir.

Quick, efficient and all-serving.
 
Carla Coleman
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I haven't used a microwave for quite a few years - mostly for the same reason as #1 in your list, R Ranson. I have definite trust issues with things manufactured by large corporations that are 'the newest and best'. The more money they put into promoting it, the less I trust what they say. I haven't ever bothered to do any research on microwave safety though (probably because I don't miss it) so I can't speak to scientific proof one way or the other.

For leftovers I usually 'remake' it as an omelet or a hash or fried rice or something in the frying pan (as several others do!). If it's something that doesn't work that way - today I had some leftover coq au vin and roast potatoes - I put it in a small Pyrex type dish and put it in the bamboo steamer over a pot of boiling water. If it's something that would get soggy I'll cover it or wrap it in foil. But like for the chicken & potatoes, it was a little short on sauce/gravy so I steamed it uncovered. I'd like to have a Hot Pot - my cousin has one and uses it daily I think - but she is usually cooking for a horde. I only cook for more than myself when I'm having guests so I don't think I would use it enough.

Carla
 
Daniel Schneider
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For reheating things like the cabbage rolls, you might try one of those metal steamers that open up like a flower. You can put it into a dry, lidded pot on the stove, and the feet will keep the food up off the bottom so the food won't burn, but it will be surrounded by dry heat, just like a little oven. You could do the same thing with a small oven safe bowl set on an all-metal trivet that fits inside your pot. When you're using it dry, you probably want to use a fairly heavy-bottomed pot, and don't crank the stove heat too high, to protect the pot's bottom
 
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I'm a little sceptical about the health risks, I haven't seen anything convincing. I've heard they destroy vitamins, but that might also be scaremongering, as all forms of cooking do that. Once when I was staying in an apartment with a microwave and wanting to minimise my electricity bill, I switched off everything and then watched the meter as I switched on appliances one by one. The microwave was by far the most energy guzzling appliance I had.

I had always naively assumed that microwaves didn't use much power because they worked so fast. I haven't calculated the power usage in any detail, but I suspect they may actually use more power than a regular oven or grill to heat up the same amount of food
 
r ranson
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If you are interested in exploring the advantages and disadvantages of owning a microwave, please start a new thread


Let's keep this discussion about microwave alternatives; a source of inspiration for those who have given up the microwave or are looking for alternatives to using it so often.


 
r ranson
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The microwave has been gone for almost a month.  One of the things I've noticed is my habits for how I reheat things is changing.

I didn't use the microwave very often, but when I did, it was to reheat single servings when I hadn't had a chance to plan any food.

Now, if I'm heating food in the oven (yesterday was falafals from frozen), I used the heat to cook several other things like toasting chickpeas, some cauliflower, and a baked apple.  What's more, when finished, I left the oven door open while it cooled and it provided enough heat to take the edge off the house.  We didn't need the heater/fire on during the day. 

On the stove, I'm heating several things in the same pan.  Or more often, I'm heating enough for everyone instead of each person making their own meal. 

 
r ranson
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Someone mentioned Instant Pot earlier.  I just stumbled on this article: which instant pot is right for you.
 
You're not going crazy. You're going sane in a crazy word. Find comfort in this tiny ad:
2017 Rocket Mass Heater Workshop Jamboree - 15 workshops in one event
https://permies.com/wiki/63312/permaculture-projects/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Workshop-Jamboree
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