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Columns August 12, 2014  RSS feed

Leon County Cooks

Sherry Matney

This week a sweet friend, who happens to be a widower, asked about the difference between a potato “baked” in a microwave and one baked in a conventional oven. It occurred to me that there are lots of folks who haven’t cooked or simply don’t know where to start so for a few weeks we are going to talk “really basic” cooking, such as baking potatoes, boiling dried beans and cooking fresh peas.

So, it has been my experience that white potatoes cook much better in a conventional oven than in a microwave. However, if time is the issue, the microwave will work. With either method, start with a clean potato. I usually cut the eyes out. If you are using a conventional oven, heat it to 400 degrees. I like to put a little olive oil and salt on the potato and wrap it in foil. If you like a crispy outside, do not wrap but cook the potato on a cookie sheet. I think Russets work best for baked potatoes but reds and golds are good too.

Depending on the size of the potato it will take from 50 to 90 minutes to cook all the way through. If you don’t have that much time, try cooking the potato in the microwave for 2 or three minutes then finish off in the oven. You still get the “real baked” texture.

If waiting for a potato to cook for an hour is not your thing, try using a microwave. With this method, in addition to cleaning your potato, poke holes all over it. This will release the steam and keep it from exploding while cooking. I usually cook two medium potatoes for about 6 minutes or one giant one for that long. You can check them by squeezing the sides. If they are soft they are done. If not, cook them a little longer. They seem to cool off really fast, when cooked this way so be sure to put them in a serving dish that will keep them warm or wrap them in some way.

Just so you won’t think I am encouraging you to eat “bad for you” food, listen to this about white potatoes. (This is without all the stuff you add.) One medium potato has 161 calories, 26% of your daily requirement of potassium, 15% of your daily requirement of fiber, as well as calcium, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6 and magnesium.

While white potatoes do better in a conventional oven, in my opinion, sweet potatoes seem to do just as well in a microwave. Either way they are delicious and sooooo good for you. For the conventional oven, clean the sweet potato and rub with cooking oil. My mother used to put bacon grease on them before she baked and had them on the stove for an “after school” treat.

If you cook them in the microwave, again, poke holes in the sweet potato and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. I don’t put the cooking oil on the potato when I cook it in the microwave, don’t really know why. I love the peel so the oil would make it more tender.

A medium sweet potato cooked with the peel is often said to be among the world’s healthiest foods. It has 180 calories, 26% of daily fiber, 769% of daily Vitamin A, 65% of daily Vitamin C as well as healthy doses of calcium and iron. It also boasts 27% of daily potassium along with a very long list of other vitamins and minerals.

So see how many ways you can cook these great veggies without ruining them with grease and butter. Good luck.

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