Meals in a mug

Margaret Prouse
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New cookbook provides 250 ways to tap into microwave cooking

In the 30-plus years since microwave ovens have insinuated themselves into most Canadian kitchens, workplace lunchrooms and schools, people have changed the way they use them.

In the early days, classes were offered and cookbooks developed to help Canadians learn to use these new cooking devices to best advantage. The sky was the limit. You could learn to use them for everything from making a cup of tea to baking a cake.

Things gradually changed. People still loved the speed and convenience of microwaves, and many grew to consider them essential. However, in my experience, most used the appliances mainly for reheating leftovers, defrosting meat and heating boxed frozen meals.

Although I had read a flurry of posts online about numerous variations of microwave mug cakes, it hadn't occurred to me that cooking in mugs might be what it took to get people interested in using their microwaves more often.

I was intrigued to learn, a few months ago, that cookbook author Camilla V. Saulsbury had compiled 250 recipes for meals cooked in a mug, enough to create an entire cookbook. What made her think there was a need? Who would benefit from this book?

Saulsbury includes a long list of potential users in her introductory chapter, and I can see that her recipes will be useful for — among others — people who cook only for themselves and do not enjoy eating leftovers, single adults living in apartments or rooms with access to only a fridge and a microwave, school-age children who are allowed to use the microwave (but not the kitchen range) without parental supervision and people who are craving a treat but find it easier to manage their caloric intake without having a whole cake or pan of brownies in their homes.

When preparing recipes from the book I had to make a few modifications. I increased the cooking times because our old microwave oven is less powerful than modern ones and I used a glass measuring cup for recipes intended to be cooked in a 500 mL (16-oz), since I don't have any mugs that large.

The selection of ingredients will suit people cooking for 1 or 2, as the author incorporates a lot of canned foods, for example chickpeas, and frozen foods, such as green beans, into her recipes. She instructs readers to freeze what remains from the canned goods in labelled containers for future use.

These strategies will be useful for people who live alone and struggle with using produce and other fresh ingredients while they are at their best.

I passed over the recipes that called for ingredients that I seldom use, such as frozen hash brown potatoes and frozen mini meatballs, but was able to find lots of others to choose from.

Most dishes we tried were good (not necessarily great), except for the Cashew Tofu with Cucumber, which I thought was too heavy on hoisin and needed something else to balance the sweetness of the sauce.

I prefer muffins baked in muffin tins in the oven to microwave-baked ones, but if I did not have access to an oven, I'd make myself a microwave mug muffin.

The recipe for quinoa breakfast cereal was a surprise favourite for me.

I also sweetened it with a little maple syrup.


Quinoa Breakfast Porridge

From Saulsbury, Camilla V.: “250 Best Meals in a Mug,” Robert Rose Inc., Toronto


Use a 500 mL (16 oz) mug.

60 mL (1/4 cup) quinoa, rinsed

pinch salt

150 mL (2/3 cup) water

22 mL (1 1/2 tbsp) dried fruit (raisins, cranberries, chopped dates)

0.5 mL (1/8 tsp) ground cinnamon

30 mL (2 tbsp) milk or non-dairy milk (soy, hemp, almond, rice)

liquid honey, agave nectar, pure maple syrup, brown sugar or stevia (optional)


In the mug, combine quinoa, salt and water. Microwave on High for 4 minutes. Stir.

Microwave on High for 3 to 4 minutes or until quinoa is tender and most (but not all) of the liquid is absorbed. Stir in dried fruit, cinnamon and milk.

Cover tightly with foil and let stand for 2 minutes. If desired, sweeten to taste.

Here is something that can be pulled together in a few minutes when you feel like having a satisfying high protein meal.


Marinara Chickpeas with Poached Egg and Feta

From Saulsbury, Camilla V.: “250 Best Meals in a Mug,” Robert Rose Inc., Toronto


Use a 500 mL (16 oz) mug.

125 mL (1/2 cup) rinsed drained canned chickpeas

125 mL (1/2 cup) thick and chunky marinara sauce

1 large egg

salt and ground black pepper

30 mL (2 tbsp) crumbled feta cheese

10 mL (2 tsp) chopped fresh parsley


In a mug, combine chickpeas and marinara sauce.

Microwave on High for 60 to 75 seconds or until just heated through.

Make a well in the centre of the mixture and carefully crack an egg into the well, being careful not to break the yolk.

Cover with a small plate or saucer.

Microwave on Medium-High (70 per cent) for 60 seconds.

Check the egg white to see if it is just barely set. If not, microwave on High for 15 to 30 seconds or until the white is just set.

Season egg to taste with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle with feta and parsley. Serve with crusty bread if desired.


Margaret Prouse, a home economist, writes this column for The Guardian every Wednesday. She welcomes comments from readers and can be reached by writing her at RR#2, North Wiltshire, P.E.I., C0A 1Y0, or by sending her an email at

Organizations: Robert Rose

Geographic location: North Wiltshire

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