The Microwave Miracle Of Cooking In Mugs

NPR icon by Lydia Zuraw
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Maggie Starbard

Lunchtime is around the corner and you're tummy is rumbling. If you've got a microwave, a mug and a few basic ingredients, you can cook up a meal right in the office.

Morning Edition's David Greene recently started microwaving scrambled eggs in a mug for those early mornings on hosting duties. It led him to wonder about the other possibilities of this culinary art.

So he turned to Washington Post Food and Travel Editor Joe Yonan for help expanding his mug menu. "The mug gauntlet was laid down in front of me, and so I picked it up and decided to do a mac and cheese," says Yonan, who writes the "Cooking for One" column.

When he joined Greene in NPR offices to demonstrate his recipes (below) for mac and cheese and brownies, the steps were pretty straightforward: put some things in a mug, nuke for a bit, add more things, stir, and finish nuking.

It doesn't get much easier than that, folks.

But whatever you decide to whip up, there's one thing you need to remember: Things get really hot in the microwave.

"They're not just getting heat from the surface that they're in contact with, like a pan would on the stove. They're heating from the inside out," Yonan explains. "All their molecules are all excited and the whole thing is kind of exploding inside, so you have to be careful."

Also, don't cook anything with fish. Do that and you might get kicked out of the building because the smell will seep into every corner.

Yonan says a lot of people think that microwaving is a lesser form of cooking. There are plenty of people who just reheat things and make popcorn, "but the microwave is incredibly versatile and I think people have realized that."

So go wild and experiment with whatever happens to be in the fridge today. Just don't steal somebody else's lunch.

Mac and Cheese with Mushrooms in an Office Mug (based on a recipe on the Kitchn)

1/4 cup macaroni pasta

1/4 cup water

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons whole milk

1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons dried shiitake mushrooms, crumbled

2 tablespoons roasted tomato salsa

Combine the pasta, water and salt in a large microwave-safe mug.

Microwave on high in 2-minute intervals until the pasta is al dente, stirring between each interval. This should take about 6 to 8 minutes total. If the pasta absorbs all the water before it is cooked, add another 2 tablespoons of water.

Stir in the milk, cheese, mushrooms and salsa. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals until the cheese has melted into a creamy sauce, stirring between each interval, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes total. For a creamier sauce, add an extra tablespoon or two of milk and cheese.

Brownie in an Office Mug

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon almond butter (may substitute peanut butter or Nutella)

2 tablespoons milk (or water)

3 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon slivered almonds

Combine the butter, almond butter and milk in a large microwave-safe mug, and microwave on low a few seconds, just until the butter melts. Stir to thoroughly combine, then sprinkle in the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. Stir to combine. Microwave on high for about 1 minute.

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