Image of Shadow Lawn, the actual house, circa 1980.

Cover of Zapcrafts.

by Nancy Hayfield Birnes

Microwaves Are For More Than Just Cooking

Anyone who has ever cooked with a microwave oven can attest to the appliance’s versatility and ease. The more ideas people have for using microwave ovens the handier the microwave becomes. In Zapcrafts, I’m going to share with you the ways I’ve adapted my microwave oven for a busy lifestyle and for making health, beauty, and gift items for my family and friends. First, a note about different kinds of microwaves, wattages, and the different levels of power you’ll be using.

For our purposes, I’ve based all of the recipes on a 600- to 700-watt oven. That’s generally considered to be the standard in an industry where there are very few real standards. If you have an oven that outputs 500 watts, add about 15 seconds of cooking time for the recipes. If you have an oven that outputs 400 watts, you should add 30 seconds to the recipe instructions in the book.

Next are the power settings. By High, I mean a full 100% of the microwave’s power, Medium High means 75% power, Medium is 50%, Medium Low is about one third, and Low is about 25%. You will learn by trial and error how your own oven fares against this scale and will adjust your recipes and cooking times accordingly.

When the recipe calls for a glass container, you should use only heat-tempered glass. This is a specially designed material for use in high temperatures. Any glass that’s not heat-tempered may be shattered by the heat of the food. That’s one of the dangers of a microwave oven. You can’t see any flames, but the food inside the containers gets hotter than it might over an open fire.

Therefore, use only the utensils, bowls, and containers that are recommended for microwave use. Materials not recommended for your microwave can be dangerous. The same warning goes for plastic containers. Plastic that is not specifically recommended for microwave use should be avoided. The heat from food can melt the plastic and contaminate the food. Regular plastic containers should be used only for light reheating. Anything more will melt them. Metal should not be used for primary cooking because the metal will reflect microwaves back to the oven itself.

When the microwaves hit metal that are separated by air—as in a crumpled piece of aluminium foil—the energy becomes visible as a spark. This is known as “arcing”, and it’s what can happen if you have pieces of foil in your oven as you energize food. You can smooth out a piece of foil over the top of a container, if you are cooking vegetables in a small amount of water. The foil will prevent the microwaves from entering the container from the top while the ceramic or glass dish will allow them to enter from the bottom. As a result, the water will boil and the vegetables will steam without drying out.

Many of the recipes ask you to rotate your items midway through the cooking process. Rotation prevents items from becoming overcooked on one side and undercooked on another. Many of the newer microwaves have rotating cooking patterns or rotating trays which obviate the need for rotating the item itself. Unless your instruction book specifically tells you that you have a rotation pattern or unless your oven rotates the food on a spinning tray, assume that you will have to rotate the item during the cooking process.

Always let your items cool in the oven before you attempt to remove them. Many people are surprised to learn that items keep on cooking even after the power to the oven is turned off. Letting items sit for a minute or so allows the cooking process to stop and the item to cool. Putting your hands directly on an item to remove it from the oven before it has cooled can result in a burn if you aren’t aware of this.

I especially caution you against taking hot towels and washcloths directly from the oven and applying them to your face. You can get a nasty scalding. Even after they’ve been allowed to cool off a bit, hot towels are still plenty hot and will do the job you want. If they’re not hot enough, you can always reheat. Better to err on the side of caution than risk a burn.

Finally, a word about sterilization and bacteria. You’ll be using many of the recipes in this book for health and beauty purposes. This means that when you store items, you should store them in clean or sterilized containers. If you are saving containers for reuse, make sure that after you’ve washed and dried them you store them with the lids off. Leaving lids on may allow bacteria cultures to grow in the dampness. By storing your containers with the lids off and making sure they’re clean before you use them, you help prevent bacterial infections. This becomes especially important when you prepare skin-care recipes or items for the bath.

Feel free to experiment. Many of the recipes in this book are the results of experimenting with an idea, a spice, a fragrance, or a taste. Create, indulge your fantasies, let your imagination be your guide. If you follow simple safety rules and err on the side of caution, you can have loads of fun and save money at the same time.


☞ Product details and how to purchase:
  • Spiral-bound: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (1890)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558533079
  • ASIN: B01FIXH5O2
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
Image of leafless tree for the Print Version.