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Published August 29, 2013, 11:30 PM

Prairie Fare: Be appreciative of modern-day appliances

As I toured a couple of century-old museum mansions during a West Coast vacation, I couldn’t help but be glad for modern-day conveniences. At the time these houses were built, they were considered cutting edge because of such items as indoor plumbing and gas-powered lights.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service, INFORUM

As I toured a couple of century-old museum mansions during a West Coast vacation, I couldn’t help but be glad for modern-day conveniences. At the time these houses were built, they were considered cutting edge because of such items as indoor plumbing and gas-powered lights.

One of the homes had 16,000 square feet, which made it necessary to have a few servants. Typically, the daughters of European immigrants became the maids and cooks. If I had been around in that era, fresh off the boat from Norway, I might have been in line for a job.

I would have wanted to be the cook, though. The cooks were paid a bit more and usually had their own room in the attic of the home. Unfortunately, the heat in the attics often was sparse. I might have been cooking by the wood-burning stove at all hours because it was warm in the kitchen.

As I walked around the kitchen of one of the mansions, I took a close look at the kitchen tools. I wasn’t exactly sure what some of the kitchen gadgets were used for, although I recognized the butter churn and cream separator. The wood-burning stove, of course, had no dials or temperature gauges.

Cooking was quite an art back then. You judged the temperature by the amount of time you could hold your hand in the oven.

I noticed a reprint of a 1914 cooking magazine on the counter, so I opened it to a page with a recipe for apple pie. It was quite a process considering they rendered their own lard or made the butter for the crust back then. There were no food processors or choppers in sight.

Now, we can make an apple-pie-like dessert in minutes in a microwave oven. (See the recipe at the end of this column.) More than 90 percent of U.S. homes have a microwave oven.

Consider these tips for reheating and cooking safely in one of our favorite modern-day kitchen appliances, the microwave oven.

  • Read and follow package cooking directions on microwaveable meals.

  • Be sure to arrange food items evenly in microwave-safe dishes and add water if needed. You can cover any dish with a lid or plastic wrap before cooking to help keep in moisture. Avoid having the plastic wrap in direct contact with the food.

  • Stir and rotate your food halfway through cooking to prevent cold spots or areas where harmful bacteria can survive.

  • Prevent burns by removing your food from the microwave carefully. Use potholders and uncover foods away from your face so steam can escape.

  • Observe the recommended “standing time.” The “stand time” allows the food to continue to cook to a higher temperature after it’s removed from the microwave.

  • Use a food thermometer to be sure your food is cooked to the proper temperature.

Apples are in season, so enjoy some at this time of year. If you would like to learn how to can applesauce, apple butter, juice or sliced apples or freeze apples or other fruits, please see “Home Canning Fruit and Fruit Products” at http://tinyurl.com/8szgtms and “Freezing Fruits” at http://tinyurl.com/kmqyvw4.

Here is a recipe courtesy of the “Spend Smart. Eat Smart” Extension and Outreach program at Iowa State University.

Hurry-Up Microwave-Baked Apples

2 medium-size tart apples (Granny Smith, Braeburn, Cortland, Jonathan or Fuji)

1 teaspoon white or brown sugar

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons oatmeal

2 tablespoons (total) raisins, sweetened dried cranberries, chopped walnuts or other nuts

1 (6-ounce) container low-fat vanilla yogurt

Cut apples in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the cores and hollow out a space 1 inch or more deep. Arrange apple halves, cut sides up, in a microwavable dish. Cut thin slices off bottoms to keep from tipping. Combine sugar, cinnamon, oatmeal, raisins and nuts. Fill each apple half. Cover with plastic wrap. Fold back one edge ¼ inch to vent steam. Microwave 3 to 3½ minutes or until apples can be cut easily. Remove from microwave and let sit a few minutes. Spoon yogurt over the top.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 120 calories, 2 grams of fat, 2 grams of protein, 26 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of dietary fiber and 30 milligrams of sodium.

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

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