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The Microwave Miracle Of Cooking In Mugs

<em>Washington Post</em> Food and Travel Editor Joe Yonan whips up some macaroni and cheese in an NPR mug.
Maggie Starbard
Washington Post Food and Travel Editor Joe Yonan whips up some macaroni and cheese in an NPR mug.

Lunchtime is around the corner, and your 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 the 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.

<em>Morning Edition</em> producer Rachel Ward preps the ingredients for a microwave creation.
Maggie Starbard / NPR
Morning Edition producer Rachel Ward preps the ingredients for a microwave creation.

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 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.

Recipe: Mac And Cheese With Mushrooms In An Office Mug (based on a recipe on the Kitchn)

1/2 cup macaroni pasta

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons dried shiitake mushrooms, crumbled (optional)

Pinch of salt

3 tablespoons whole milk

1/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 tablespoons roasted tomato salsa (or your favorite store-bought salsa)

1 teaspoon flour

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

Set it on a paper towel and microwave on high in 2-minute intervals, stirring in between, until the pasta is just short of tender (al dente. This should take 4 to 8 minutes, depending on the wattage of your microwave. (The water will foam up and possibly spill slightly over the mug, but the pasta and mushrooms should stay put.) If the mug dries out before the pasta is cooked, add another 2 tablespoons of water before continuing to microwave until the pasta is al dente.

Stir in the milk, cheese, salsa and flour. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until the cheese has melted and a creamy sauce has formed. Let cool slightly and eat.

For something more basic, leave out the mushrooms. You can also take it in the other direction and add all sorts of other ingredients, depending on what's in your office fridge: pesto, leftover meat, Sriracha, kimchi. From Washington Post Food and Travel editor Joe Yonan.

Recipe: Brownie In An Office Mug

This is Washington Post Food and Travel editor Joe Yonan's tarted-up take on the many microwave-brownie-in-a-mug recipes circulating on the Internet, and it results in a fudgy, deeply chocolate flavored confection that would be improved only by a little ice cream. To make something more stripped down, you can leave out the instant espresso, dried cherries, chocolate chips and almonds and still get an excellent, if less sophisticated, result.

1 tablespoon butter

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

2 tablespoons whole milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)

1 tablespoon dried cherries (optional)

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon bittersweet chocolate chips or pieces of a chocolate bar (optional)

1 tablespoon slivered almonds (optional)

1 tablespoon slivered almonds

Combine the butter, almond butter, milk and vanilla in a large microwave-safe mug, and microwave on high until the butter melts, 30 to 60 seconds. Stir with a fork to break up the almond butter and thoroughly combine. Sprinkle in the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, instant espresso, cherries and salt, and stir to combine. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Microwave on high for about 1 minute, until the butter has firmed up on top and the chocolate has melted. Sprinkle with almonds, let cool slightly, and eat.

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Corrected: February 24, 2013 at 10:00 PM MST
Our original post included incorrect versions of the recipes. Corrected recipes appear below.
Lydia Zuraw