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Author Topic: Cooking for One  (Read 30132 times)

Kirsten

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Cooking for One
« on: September 21, 2005, 03:34:58 pm »

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« Last Edit: February 23, 2007, 09:47:00 pm by Kirsten »
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Jac

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2005, 04:05:25 pm »

Stew. Beans. Soup.

Yeah, if you make big batches, you have to eat them as leftovers; but the beauty of dishes like that is they don't have to be entrees. You could have stew/soup/beans as the main dish one day, then as a secondary dish the next. That way you use up your ingredients all at once, but they don't get old as fast. (I still live at home; I'm going off of what we do as a family and what my single grandma says she does).

I dunno, though... I love those kind of dishes; some people might just not like eating the same thing more than once in a row. *shrug* Your mileage, as they say, may vary. :mellow:
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securitysix

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2005, 05:05:11 pm »

Quote
Suppose I want to make my Chinese noodle salad and don't want to eat it for lunch and dinner for the next three days?  I don't know how to halve or quarter a recipe that calls for 1 package of shrimp ramen noodles and the entire seasoning packet therein.

I suppose you could take half or a quarter of the actual noodles, measure the seasoning packet's weight or volume and quarter or half that, and do it that way. 

You could also make the ramen noodles, cull out the quarter or half that you're gonig to use, make your chinese noodle salad with them, stick the rest in the fridge (or freeze them) and then just remember to add some water too them when you microwave them, otherwise they'll be all dry and sticky and gross and even I won't eat them.  Not knowing when the noodles and seasoning go into your "Chinese noodle salad", this might not work, but hey, I tried.  :)

Quote
What are your best tips for shopping/cooking for one?

Fried Spam, reheated in the pan when you're ready to eat it again (and for the love of Mike, don't microwave fried spam, it's just gross).  Can be made into a sandwich (wheat bread, mayo, cheese, veggies as/if desired, a little tobasco sauce if you like a little spice, more bread), or it can be served with a side like mac and cheese or ramen noodles. 

Ramen noodles.  Ramen noodles just rock.  The package kind that have the little seasoning packet and cost like 15 cents each.  Not that nasty soup in a cup kind that have veggies mixed in.  One package of ramen noodles is about a meal.  They say 2.5 servings per package, but if you're just eating the noodles alone, it takes most, if not all of the package to be filling.  Add a little bbq sauce to beef, chicken, or pork flavored noodles for a little extra treat.

Cheez-itz, pretzels, and popcorn.  Instead of eating meals, munch on junk food.  OK, so it's not healthy but, um...need I remind you of the fried spam, thank you.  Yeah, healthy isn't a huge priority of mine, in case the previous entries didn't give that away.

Little smokies.  Buy a package of them and they can be used in various ways.  They can be eaten alone (with bbq sauce, of course), mixed in with mac and cheese (bbq sauce optional), mixed in with ramen noodles (bbq sauce optional), or probably all sorts of other things I can't think of.  An opened package will probably last a decent amount of time in the fridge, but I couldn't say for sure because between me and my dad, they usually don't last more than a week after being opened.

BBQ Beef Sandwiches:  1 can of corned beef, bbq sauce to taste, mix and heat until warm all the way through, put on bread and eat.  Good stuff, but you'll make more than you can eat in one sitting.  Refrigerated, it's OK for a week or two (depending on if you keep it covered or not), but reheat it on the stove, not in the microwave.

It's probably a good thing I still live with my parents and mom has to cook for 3 (me, dad, and her, both sisters got married and moved out), cause otherwise, I'd never eat anything resembling a home cooked meal.  :)  Of course, sometimes, my mom's idea of a home cooked meal is little smokies and mac & cheese or fried spam sandwiches, so maybe I come by that honestly anyway.  :)

My grandmother lived alone pretty much from the time my mom and aunt moved out up until she passed away from cancer three years ago.  She'd buy everything that wouldn't keep after being opened in smaller portions, and it might still take her 2 or 3 days to eat a single pork chop with no side, but she never ate much anyway (and could still outwork any 5 teenage boys you could find).

OK, so that probably wasn't really helpful, but I'm bored and it gave me something to do.  :)
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freewoman

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2005, 05:27:03 pm »

I'm married now, but will hopefully be free soon.  However, I was single for several years, and remember those days well.  I did the "big batch" route; boredom was a major issue there, though, since I like a lot of variety.  Plus I didn't always have much freezer space (roommates took up a lot of it).  Then there was the roommate who helped herself to my food. . . .

Potatoes keep well.  Yukon golds are particularly good keepers.  If you have a cabinet that's relatively cool (not near the stove or fridge, preferably ventilated) you can store them for awhile.  If you use 3-4 potatoes a week you'll use up a 5-pound bag in short order.  I like to top them with chili and cheese for a quick meal.  Or steamed broccoli and cheese.  Or whatever--they're very versatile.  They're also good for lunches for work.

On the Chinese noodle salad:  it wouldn't be too hard to halve the recipe.  Just place half of the raw noodles and half of the seasoning packet (use a teaspoon to roughly measure so you don't end up with one overseasoned and one underseasoned) in a ziplock bag, or generic equivalent.  You might want to label it, though.  I would wait until you're ready to make the salad to cook the noodles; they'll stay fresher and will taste better.  I have gotten away from ramen noodles, though, because they're not whole grain (so I end up hungry in 10 minutes or less!) and the MSG in the seasoning often gives me a headache.

When I felt like making something more complicated, I would generally make enough for 3-4 servings and then dish out the rest into my own homemade freezer meals.  Great for taking to work.

If you get cable/satellite, watch 30 Minute Meals.  The ideas there are excellent, and can either be halved easily or used for work meals.  Rachael Ray is fun, too.

A lot of people like the George Foreman grills.  You can get the IQF (individually quick frozen) chicken breasts or strips, or a single steak or hamburger or whatever, and grill it up with some veggies.  Add a baked potato or some rice and you're set.  The only problem I found with the grills is that they're a pain to clean, despite what the ads say.  But some of them now have removable grills, which is very helpful.  That might be a nice addition to your Christmas list!

Crock pots are also great for soups, stews, and bean dishes.  They would be the "big batch" idea, but are so low-maintenance.  Cleaning is a pain there, too, but the fact that you don't have to cook at the end of a long day is a big help there.  Plus you reduce the temptation to eat out or grab take out because dinner's already cooking.

Another option for ideas is the "freezer cooking" cookbooks.  You cook a bunch on the weekend and then freeze the resulting meals.  And they're not all soups and stews--lasagna, meat loaf, and roast beef and turkey/chicken are all good.

Hope this helps!  Oh, one other tip.  I would always try to dole out the portions before eating.  Portion control is important when you're doing any kind of big-batch cooking because you can easily gain weight.  But I liked having my own homemade meals ready to go, and I could control the ingredients.  Ever read the side of the box on those frozen meals?  Although some of them are really tasty, I'm not sure all the ingredients were necessarily healthful.

PL
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Dave Polaschek

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2005, 05:52:56 pm »

Buy vegetables at a co-op or organic store that lets you select your own. I can get potatoes two or three at a time that way. If you have your own herb-garden you have fresh herbs on an as-needed basis through the warm months. A small indoor herb garden keeps the place smelling better in the winter, especially if you're an indifferent house-keeper as I am.

Root vegetables - get a 1 gallon plastic container, and fill it about half-full of clean, dry sand. When I buy a batch of beets, green onions, sweet-potatoes, or whatever, the ones I don't use immediately go into the sand, and then the whole container goes in the fridge. The veggies will keep for weeks this way.

Other vegetables get canned, pickled, or frozen, depending on the veg. I have a "root cellar" (a side room in my basement - it doesn't stay cool enough to be a real root cellar) that has four or five dozen pint jars of home-canned things at the end of the fall. I can things in "just in time" batches with a tall and skinny two-quart saucepan. It holds three pint jars just perfectly. I also have the monster 21 quart pressure-cooker/canner which gets put into service late in the fall.

Corn - when I get fresh corn on the cob, a half-dozen ears at a time, I roast two ears on the grill for dinner (and invite a friend) on day 1. Steam the remaining four ears on day 2, eating one, and cutting the corn off the other three ears. Some gets eaten on day 3, some turns into creamed-corn and canned, and some goes into cornbread or polenta (or grits).

Cook meals that can evolve. For example, I'll make up a batch of rice that's generally 4 servings for me (the rice cooker doesn't do well with smaller batches). Meal 1, I stir-fry up a small batch of sauce and meat. Meal 2 (lunch the next day, for example), I'll make fried-rice from most of the leftover rice. Meal 3 (dinner) gets a new sauce on the fried rice. Meal 4 (breakfast) is kedgeree made with the fried rice.

Similarly with red sauce. Batch 1 is meatless. Depending on the size of the batch, some will get canned and go into the root cellar. One meal's worth goes over pasta. Next meal with it, I use it and some meat to stuff a bell pepper or two. Third meal ends up being hotdish, perhaps with some leftover rice, or lasagna. Leftover lasagna gets put into individual-serving-size containers and frozen.

I also freeze bacon, but I generally just cut a pound in half (for half-length strips, which are more convenient in BLTs), and half goes in the freezer. No individual wrapping, since I'll use up a half-pound of bacon by myself before it goes bad. If the bacon starts to go bad before I'm done with it, I lay it out on a sheet-pan, bake at 350 until it's really crispy, cool, crumble, and a ziploc bag of bacon-bits goes into the freezer.

I'm betting that your chinese noodle salad could be baked into something pretty different with a few added ingredients. Or make the sauce separately, and freeze half the sauce with half the noodles set aside. Leftover cabbage doesn't freeze well, but it pickles very well. Or chinese-style cabbage can often be bought loose in small batches at an oriental grocery.

For bread, I either bake my own, with small loaf pans (they're "kid-size" ones that came with some Easy-Bake oven clone) and freeze dough I'm not going to use immediately, or buy the tubes with the dough-boy on 'em, and freeze unused portions. If you're making toast, bread can be frozen after baking, too, but it will be too dry for sandwiches. But I often have a half-loaf of "store-bought" bread in the freezer just for toast.

Leftover bread gets turned into homemade croutons by sprinkling it with a little olive oil and herbs and then drying it out in the oven on the lowest setting. And then into the freezer with any I won't use in a week or so. Croutons will keep nearly forever if frozen in an airtight container.

Meats... get small roasts cut to order by the butcher. Day 1, it's hot roast for dinner. Day 2, it's cold slices on a sandwich for lunch, and starting a stew with the rest of the roast. Leftover stew either gets canned or frozen.

Chicken: Day 1, roasted whole chicken. I eat both legs and maybe a thigh. Day 2, I part out the carcass, and slice up all the breast meat. Into a ziploc bag for lunches. Thighs get warmed for dinner, or chopped and turned into a stir-fry. The main carcass, bones and wings go into the gallon ziploc bag of chicken parts, which when full gets turned into chicken stock, which gets frozen in 1/2 cup plastic containers. I can thaw just enough stock for any recipe when I need it.

Finally, the BEST investment I made for my kitchen was a Danby counter-top dishwasher. They're about $250. Four plates, four saucers, and four cups/glasses is a full load for it. I'm not wasting a ton of water doing dishes for one guy every day, but with pots, pans, etc., I have enough for a load every day, so nothing sits around and gets stinky.

Is this where I mention I'm single, looking, and a darned good cook?  :wub:
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Dave Polaschek

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2005, 06:02:40 pm »

...freeze dough I'm not going to use immediately...

I should mention that when I make a batch of dough, I also usually turn out a couple pizza crusts. Bake them half-way (about 5 minutes at 350), then into a gallon ziploc bag, and into the freezer. When it's time for pizza, I pull out a jar of red-sauce, some leftover meat, use the microplane to grate some frozen mozzarella off the chunk from the freezer, toss on some leftover vegetables, and bake for 10-15 at 350 and I've got something a lot better than Tombstone sells.

Microplane graters are wonderful for grating frozen cheese. Mozz doesn't freeze especially well, but if you're putting it onto a pizza, it's okay. "Government cheese" cheddar is some of the best stuff on the market, and freezes very well. In spite of the Rainmakers' song, I'm always happy when I score one of those tasty 5 lb blocks.
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Dave Polaschek

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2005, 06:12:43 pm »

...I found that my half-strips were shrinking more...

Bake your bacon. Toaster-oven (another boon for single-cooking) at 350 for 10-20 minutes, depending on how done you like your bacon. It shrinks less, and curls almost not at all.
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Shevek

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2005, 06:51:43 pm »

Quote
I'm single and not looking.

Not looking for what Kirsten? :o ;) :lol:

With respect to food and cooking for one person, you raise an important question. I never have found a complete solution. Additionally, I live rurally, and although the town 7 miles away has two adequate grocery stores, typically I do not waste gasoline to travel into town every couple of days. I shop for my groceries only every 14 to 17 days or so.

However, I do buy in bulk when I can. For example, I buy the big 72 slice package of sandwich cheese. I slice the big stack into smaller stacks that fits snugly into my plastic cheese storage box. I freeze the remainder. When my refrigerated container is empty I remove another chunk from the freezer and that thaws overnight. I also buy the cheese that is not individually wrapped.

Things like bacon or sausage I keep in the freezer. The microwave oven is a great way to quickly unthaw something.

Most recipes are written for a party of four or more. I don't mind eating something two or three days in a row, so I can't say that bothers me. This idea of not eating the same meal in consecutive days is, I think, a modern marketing concoction---a ruse to encourage people to buy and eat out more. Thus, IMO, I suggest just eating the same thing two or three days in a row. That attitude adjustment helps me a lot with my meals.

In the winter I usually will cook a big pot of beef vegetable stew. I'll place some of that in a large container for the fridge and enjoy the stew for the next several days. The stew does not go rank quickly, so usually I can skip a day and eat something else in between. The remainder of the stew gets packaged in individual containers and frozen.

I buy a full Cornish Hen rather than pre-cut chicken. I boil the hen, mince and shred, and then mix that with a simple flour-based "white sauce." I then can make two to three meals out of that mixture and I pour the mixture on mashed potatoes one night, noodles another night, and rice another. Then I'll vary the veggies with each meal to provide a very simple variety.

I'm also fond of prepackaged cans of soup. Usually Healthy Choice brand, especially Split Pea. (Homer Simpson imitation): "Mmm. Split Pea Soup." Combined with a sandwich, for me each can is a meal.

I typically stay away from most prepackaged foods, however. I almost never buy junk food or soda pop.

Bread. I store my bread in the fridge. I store additional loaves in the freezer. I buy 5 pound bags of potatoes and store them in the fridge too. I built a space in the basement that is supposed to be a form of a root cellar, but I haven't yet finished that project. If I did I could store more food there.

I enjoy a weekly hamburger, so I buy them in a box of a dozen or more and simply freeze them. I keep the buns in the fridge.

Vegetables are a sore subject for me. Especially cucumbers. I love cukes, but they go bad in a few days. I enjoy salads and I always have to eat the cukes quickly. Bummer. And often, because there is only me, I end up sautéing the last of my fresh mushrooms and mixing with eggs for a cheap omelet or I'll pour the mushrooms over a burger.
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Phil Carson

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2005, 11:10:59 pm »

Share:

If there is a really good buy on something, and afraid it is going to spoil, not enough freezer space, concerned about being burned out ...find another single friend(s) and split it up.

I have  gone  to buying more canned goods  than buying frozen stuff. I got caught during an ice stormonce  and lost all my freezer goods. I had to stay at work [ Main OR at the time] and not allowed to come home for 3 days...my neighbors were stuck as well at their respective hospitals - so none of us could get our frozen goods to a freezer. That is when I went to using and we split cases of canned goods - like Tomato  soup to use as a base for soups and such.

My schedule is wierd. Sometimes I only have one day to actually cook and do laundry...other domestic stuff.  I fire up the crock pot and toss in a say a round steak, small roast, whatever the best buy was. I make pasta. When the roast is done I take half of it out. Take my cornstarch andjCOLD water shaken real good[ no lumps this way]  in a mason jar , add back to the crock pot. Now I serve this roast and gravy over the pasta. The rest of the roast I make sandwiches.

I actually prefer Roast with potato, carrots and onions, I can make a meal out of the veggies alone.

I may also have fired up the grill, and/ or have the convection oven going. Take chicken, I make the bestest homemade chicken salad, BBQ chicken sandwiches are great, With the pot of rice I made - I can have chicken and rice, or serve the hamburger with the roast gravy over the rice.

Basically I am cooking in a manner for the whole week, I can mix and match as to not get burned out - and even have lunch stuff.

All I need to do is nuke some veggies if want - then again I may have spit the celery, Romaine lettuce, carrot purchases...etc..with a neighbor so we both don't waste half of what we bought and let go bad.

I use a 6" cast iron skillet to make muffins [ Make mine Blackberry please] , or cornbread. Tastes better to me - and I don't have to spend money on baking cups.

I make scratch biscuits.With these  I can have a PB&J, for a snack, use cheese, and/ or ham for breakfast. Mix up a batch with the chicken mentioned above - or use a can of Tuna. Tuna Biscuits we used to call these.

Now I am one folks hate. I can eat and not gain weight. My BP and everything is "too good".  So I eat eggs if I want. I make the bestest scrambled eggs and my omlet will make you slap your grandma. So I often have plenty of eggs and sometimes breakfast food - well it is the best choice for a supper meal.

Nothing wrong with a Olive and egg sandwich either.  Besides - the olive jars - the tall ones - are perfect for letting a 1911 bbl soak in...[multitasking...what - you folks don't buy stuff that works for firearm realated stuff too ?]

Convection Oven:
Smartest Kitchen thing I ever bought. 1) it does not heat up the whole place and make cooling bills go up trying to cool the place back down. 2) It has a timer. A timer that shuts itself OFF. Sometimes with College and my hours - well , I get so focused on studying - I forget the hand timer went off. Maybe I really do NOT have the time to stand over a stove and cook - my time is really needed to study. Maybe I need a shower, sounds dumb - but be up for 36 hours straight, need a shower, let something like chicken broil while you get shaved, showered and clean clothes. It goes a long way to making one feel human.

Rotate:
Back when I had nice cabinet space and a Pantry, this was easier. Now my cabinet space - it sucks big time.  So I have my cases of can goods marked with a sharpie with the date. I get a new case of - lets say  green beans, I eat from the older case and the new is intact. Dry goods, I have Rubbermaid totes. New stuff like pasta , rice, barley, and such go into one, when I use up the first one - that one gets relegated to  the new replacements  with a new date on the masking tape.  I've gone  thru two floods in my lifetime...I like rubber totes with really good sealing tops...

Food and such is expensive enough - without Mother Nature screwing with my stores.

I still use the fridge freezer and little stand alone freezer,  for the game meats, fresh caught fish  and veggies not canned. Oh and the case of frozen orange , grapfruit , juices.

I'm hungry again...time to raid that other half of Blackberry muffin...

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velojym

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2005, 01:40:24 am »

Oh, when I was single I took the lazy way out... value menu at Wendy's.
Canned soup was always handy, Campbell's Chunky. Processed food may not be the best
for ya... but, uh, *sigh*
I'm married now, and eating better... really! :thumbsup:
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rockchucker

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #10 on: September 24, 2005, 10:09:27 am »

My problem with cooking for one is a little bit different. I have only a very small refrigerator. Couple of cubic feet I guess. Plus, while the good people whose house I'm living in are happy to have me use the kitchen, in practice it doesn't work at all for me to try and cook here. Cleanup is sometimes problematic as well. While the actual space available in the refrigerator is an issue, it's more the cramped feeling I get trying to use it that makes me not try to utilize it more effectively. Not sure what the term is for this; it's sort of like claustrophobia I guess, but I don't suffer from that.

So, I exist mostly on cold cereal and frozen dinners (the roommates have a chest freezer that I'm free to use). On workdays, I have a meat and cheese sandwich for lunch. Once or twice a week, I get a usually good dinner at a friend's place. I sometimes keep apples and yogurt around.

The other thing is that while I really enjoy cooking, and I'm pretty good at it, I know very little about some fundamental things, such as how long something stays good. Really, it's never been an issue for me, because in the past, I've either eaten up leftovers quickly, or frozen them, or let them go to the point where there's no question of whether they're still edible. So I could use a good reference source on that. For example, one thing I could do to improve my diet would be to keep hard-boiled eggs on hand. There's about zero cleanup involved in preparing and eating them. I actually dislike the concept of "convenience foods". Back when I was earning the bucks and had my own house, my kitchen remodel plans included a high-end gas range and an electric convection oven, seperate food-prep sink ... all that cool stuff. But I'd really like to improve my diet. If I could find someplace to put my microwave, I'd be looking for good microwave recipes which require almost no cleanup. I've thought about getting a hotplate and/or toaster-oven. Still, space is at a premium here in the cave basement, and there's no sink down here. (Yeah, I use the microwave in the main kitchen upstairs for my frozen dinners, so I can use it for other microwave recipes as well.)
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Jon

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #11 on: September 24, 2005, 11:05:08 am »

Can somebody help me with my shopping? I think that's my biggest problem.
When you're feeling hungry, stay away from the Supermart. Being hungry tends to bias your buying pattern towards taking home more than you need. Then you either cook too much because you've bought too much, or you don't get around to some provisions before you have to throw them out, wasting money. Shopping hungry skews your judgement. It's hard enough as it is, just trying to scale home-cooked serves down to one person's need.
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Jon

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2005, 11:20:01 am »

(Yeah, I use the microwave in the main kitchen upstairs for my frozen dinners, so I can use it for other microwave recipes as well.)
Avoid using the microwave for dairy products, such as heating hot chocolate and flavoured milks.
There is something about microwaves that alters the molecular structure of certain components in milk, turning them into powerful toxins of the Dioxin family.
This was known for years, but was held back from public release because the microwave manufacturers were afraid public knowledge of it would impede sales of their product. It eventually took a Whistleblower scenario to force the issue, in Britain initially and in other countries later.
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rockchucker

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #13 on: September 24, 2005, 02:02:13 pm »

Avoid using the microwave for dairy products, such as heating hot chocolate and flavoured milks. There is something about microwaves that alters the molecular structure of certain components in milk, turning them into powerful toxins of the Dioxin family.

Well, I did a quick web search, and found a lot of what sounds to me like psuedo-science, mixed in with some stuff that might be true. I liked this one:
Quote
All wave energy changes polarity from positive to negative with each cycle of the wave.
[...]
By comparison, microwaves from the sun are based on principles of pulsed direct current (DC) that don't create frictional heat; microwave ovens use alternating current (AC) creating frictional heat.
Now I'm neither an RF engineer, nor a cosmologist, but I've read a bit here and there, and polarity of EM spectrum and polarity of electrical current and magenetic fields are different things. And while I suppose it's possible that electical currents exist somewhere in the sun, a microwave is a microwave is a microwave, by definition, AFAIK. And the input power source doesn't really have much to do with the output of the magnetron. Hey, there are microwave ovens which run off the cigarette lighter in your car/van/truck. Are their microwaves more or less harmful because the input is 12VDC instead of 120VAC?  :dontknow:

The somewhat credible dioxin references I found all related to leaching from plastic compounds. I think that'd happen with any heating, microwave induced or not. Update: I mean, if it happens at all.
« Last Edit: September 24, 2005, 02:04:54 pm by rockchucker »
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rockchucker

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Re: Cooking for One
« Reply #14 on: September 24, 2005, 04:44:18 pm »


I found those, too.  But I also found that dioxins are not water soluble, so primarily they would stay in the plastic rather than be absorbed by the food in the microwave.  And the more credible sources concerned plastic wrap, not plastic containers.  Not particularly impressive science so far.


Well, a substance doesn't have to be soluble to be carried in suspension. Oil and vinegar, for example.

Seems to me this whole brouhaha dates back to when microwave ovens first appeared on the scene, before there were plastics specifically engineered for use with them. But then, that was a while back, and my memory might not be correct.
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