Rush Hour

I remember thinking that microwaves were nice, but not meant for real cooking when I first started seeing them showing up on store shelves and kitchens everywhere. Some of the first models were huge, clunky pieces of metal that were more than just a little fickle and had two modes: barely warm and near-nuclear-meltdown. One of my first microwaves even managed to set a poor bag of microwave popcorn on fire when my unsuspecting mother set it for a minute longer than usual! Well, microwaves have come a long way, baby!

Today's microwaves feature space-saving profiles, larger cooking compartments, turn tables that cut down on uneven cooking and even preprogrammed buttons for popular items such as popcorn (which my mother loves!) or baked potatoes. But despite these advances, many people overlook their microwaves when it comes to making real food. Oh sure, they'll pop some frozen veggies or a casserole with quick rice in it, but what about making something more substantial and traditional? What about meatloaf?

This month, in order to help bring the microwave into your weekday cooking, I'm offering a simple meatloaf recipe that can help squelch those fears of pairing the microwave with real food. Using your microwave, you can cut the time it takes to make meatloaf by more than half and use that time to enjoy some of the finer things in life -- like your daughter's first violin recital. Just remember to smile and bring your earplugs ... just in case!

Microwave Meatloaf

Feel free to mix and match your favorite ingredients to make a special meatloaf. If you want, you can scoop hot mashed potatoes into the center of the ring once the meatloaf has been cooked. This is especially fun with a group of youngsters!
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 3 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c. diced bell pepper (choose green, yellow, red or a combination of all three)
  • 1/2 c. diced onion
  • 1/2 c. chopped spinach
  • 1/2 c. chopped tomato
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c. barbeque sauce, divided (choose your favorite variety)
  • 1 T. balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tsp. ancho chili powder (optional)

In a large bowl, combine ground beef, bread crumbs and egg. Using your hands, blend the mixture until evenly combined and bread crumbs are moist. Add prepared vegetables, garlic cloves, 1/4 c. barbeque sauce and vinegar and chili powder, if desired. Continue to work the ingredients just enough to evenly mix them. Place the mixture in a glass pie plate and form the meatloaf into a ring -- leaving a 3-4 inch hole in the center.

Cover the pie plate with waxed paper and microwave the meatloaf on high for 5 minutes. Remove the meatloaf and brush the remaining 1/4 c. barbeque sauce evenly over the loaf. Return to the microwave and microcook on high for another 5 minutes.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 15 minutes