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Published May 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Appliance innovations change pace of cooking

My cell phone beeped, indicating a new text message. “This OK?” read a message from my 10-year-old daughter.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

My cell phone beeped, indicating a new text message.

“This OK?” read a message from my 10-year-old daughter.

A digital photo accompanied the text message. It showed a foil-covered pan of Tater Tot hotdish on the lower shelf of our oven.

“Yep,” I texted back.

She was helping make dinner. I think she was wondering if she was supposed to keep the foil on the casserole and whether the pan was to go on the bottom shelf. That would have been a lot of information to cover in a text message.

Although the casserole really didn’t need foil on top, I decided to prevent potential burns by removing the foil in 10 minutes, when I arrived at home.

I couldn’t help but laugh at her use of modern technology to check on an old recipe.

The stoves in most kitchens typically feature four burners and an oven. Now combination ovens with steam, convection and microwave capabilities are available. Ovens with steaming capabilities inject a fine mist of steam, which allows you to bake artisan-style bread with a crisp crust and moist interior.

Many appliance innovations have been introduced in the past decade. In the late 1990s, an oven that recognized voice commands was introduced.

Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into the kitchen and tell your oven to cook dinner?

Thinking of future innovations, I would want a robot available to mix the recipe and load the dishwasher, too.

Drawers hold more than your spatulas these days. Warming drawers and drawer microwaves are available. You can keep bread and other foods warm in a warming drawer. A drawer microwave allows you to cook the food, open the drawer and stir the food without removing it from the oven.

Most people have a microwave oven. When microwave ovens were introduced, many people believed that conventional cooking would be abandoned. Microwave ovens, however, primarily are used to reheat foods. Many of us use them on a near-daily basis.

Here are a few reminders about microwave ovens, but always consult your owners manual for specifics about your brand:

- Use microwave-safe containers. Not all glass containers are microwave-safe. To test your container, microwave the empty container for one minute. If it’s cool, it’s OK for cooking and reheating. If it’s lukewarm, it’s OK for reheating. If it’s hot, don’t use it in the microwave.

- Use only microwave-safe plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper and paper towels. According to the Food and Drug Administration, microwave-safe plastic wrap should be placed loosely over food so that steam can escape. The plastic wrap should not directly touch your food.

- Do not heat foods in margarine tubs, cottage cheese containers or takeout containers from restaurants. The containers may melt and/or chemicals may migrate into the food during the microwaving process.

- When making microwave popcorn, stay near the microwave oven. By leaving it unattended, you could face the risk of fire.

- Cook foods thoroughly by rotating and stirring the foods. Measure the internal temperature of the food in a couple of places with a food thermometer.

Microwave-cooked food often has “cold spots.”

- Clean the microwave oven door and oven cavity regularly with water and mild detergent. Do not use abrasive cleaners or scouring pads to clean your microwave oven.

Here’s a recipe courtesy of the University of Kentucky Extension Service:


Microwave Apple Crisp

5 cups apples, peeled and sliced (or canned apple slices)

¾ cup oatmeal

1 cup flour

¾ cup brown sugar

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

½ cup butter or margarine

Place apple slices in a 2-quart casserole dish. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in butter or margarine until mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle topping evenly over sliced apples. Place in microwave oven for 15 minutes, turning one-quarter turn often.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 279 calories, 12 grams (g) of fat, 41 g of carbohydrate and 273 milligrams of sodium.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.

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