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It’s hard to get a solid office lunch. Offices rarely have full kitchens, and nobody has time to go all MasterChef in the middle of the day, anyway. So what’s a foodie to do? Spend her hard-earned money on takeout? Heat up a frozen meal like some apocalypse survivor in a bunker? Eat a cold sandwich… or worse?

Nay, fine scientific foodies. For even if you don’t have a stove or oven at the office, you probably have a microwave, and let me tell you something: that’s all you need. I’ve spent many a lunch break learning to make fresh meals in microwaves, and I’ve come up with some quick office-friendly recipes that will nurture and delight you.

Before you start

Nobody likes a messy communal space, so make sure you cover your meal with a paper towel to minimize its risk of splattering all over the microwave as it cooks. You could also set it atop a paper plate or towel to protect against overflows. As another courtesy to your colleagues, these dishes won’t hog the microwave for more than a couple minutes at a time.

And while you could bring proper utensils and cooking tools from home, these dishes are still easy to make with whatever’s in your office kitchen. Don’t worry if you don’t have a proper way to measure some of the ingredients, either. As long as you’ve got a rough idea of what a cup or tablespoon looks like, you’ll do fine—this isn’t fine dining.

Finally, because microwaves are all so different and the settings of those in office kitchens tend to be tweaked constantly, it’s important to take all these cooking times with a grain of salt. When you’re making a dish for the first time, check on it frequently to make sure it doesn’t overcook.

Breakfast stuffed peppers

microwaved stuffed pepper on a desk
Try filling your mug with something other than coffee or tea for a change. Thomas Payne

Time: 5 minutes to prep, 5 minutes to cook

Ingredients

  • 1 bell pepper (large)
  • 1/4 cup of broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons of cheese (I recommend smoked gouda)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Tools

  • Bowl
  • Knife
  • Microwave-safe mug
  • Whisk (or fork)

Instructions

Core the pepper by cutting a circle around the stem and pulling it out like a jack-o’-lantern. Then, channeling your Halloween spirit, pull out the pepper’s guts, leaving only the exterior shell.

Stand the pepper up in a microwave-safe mug. Cook until soft, though not shapeless—probably 2 minutes or so. If you’re not confident about your office’s microwave, try heating up the pepper in 30-second intervals until it’s cooked. Pour out any liquid that has accumulated in the mug.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, olive oil, and salt. Fold in the shredded (or chopped) cheese. Pour the mixture into the hollowed-out pepper, put it in the microwave, and cook it until the egg begins to bubble up—probably a minute or two.

Open the microwave and let the egg deflate, then cook it for another minute. You want the egg to cook without spilling out of the pepper.

Take your meal out of the microwave, put a little hot sauce on top (if you want), and you’re good to go.

Cracker olive pizza

Triscuit pizza bites on a desk
You can customize this “pizza” to your heart’s content. Different crackers, different toppings—just go wild. Thomas Payne

Time: 2 minutes to prep, 2 minutes to cook

I can’t take credit for this one. Every Passover, a holiday that forbids anything bready, including (gasp) pizza, kids at my middle school would use this technique to transform matzo—an incredibly boring-tasting cracker—into the best school lunch of the year.

Ingredients

  • 10 crackers (any type) or 1 piece of matzo
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 can of olives (or any already-cooked topping)
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce

Note: These quantities vary a lot depending on the size of crackers you’re using, so use your best judgement.

Tools

  • Your hands

Instructions

You probably already figured this one out yourself: spread the tomato sauce over the crackers. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top. Then add the olives or whatever toppings you want.

Cook your “pizza” in the microwave for 30 seconds, or until the cheese melts.

Shakshuka

shakshouka on a desk by a computer
If you really want to up your microwaving game, try shakshuka, a hearty dish of tomatoes, eggs, and warm spices. Thomas Payne

Time: 5 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to cook

Shakshuka is a popular Middle Eastern dish. It’s the sort of fancy breakfast food that’s exciting at a restaurant but pretty much unheard of in an office microwave. Until now.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of a bell pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup of feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • Salt, black pepper, and paprika to taste
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce
  • Basil leaves (optional)

Tools

  • Bowl
  • Fork (or spoon)
  • Knife

Instructions

Chop up the pepper. Put it in the bowl and microwave it for a minute, or until it’s soft.

Pour the tomato sauce into the bowl and mix in the olive oil, pepper, and salt.

Crack the eggs and carefully place them in the tomato sauce. Give the yolks a tiny prick with a knife. The prick shouldn’t be large enough to let the yolk spill out, but it’ll prevent the egg from exploding.

Tomato sauce is extra splattery, so make sure you cover the bowl with a paper plate or towel before microwaving it for about a minute. Then, microwave it in 20-second intervals, testing the yolk lightly until it feels solid, but wiggly. Ideally, you want the yolks to be a pasty consistency, so you can make sure the whites are fully cooked. It’s not the easiest thing to get right the first time, but you’ll eventually figure out exactly how long your microwave takes, and you’ll be able to avoid checking on the yolks so much.

Once the eggs are cooked, top the dish with feta cheese, paprika, and basil leaves.

Brie-broccoli quiche

a brie and broccoli quiche on a desk near a computer
What we learned: use pie crust, not puff pastry. Puff pastry, well, puffs. A lot. Thomas Payne

Time: 5 minutes to prep, 10 minutes to cook

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup of brie
  • 1/4 cup of broccoli
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 square foot of frozen, ready-made pie crust dough (the soft kind, not the stiff, pre-shaped stuff)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup of whole milk (any dairy milk will do)

Tools

  • 2-3 bowls
  • Fork (or spoon)

Instructions

Spread the pie crust into one bowl, folding the edges over the sides. Microwave it for 2 minutes, or until the dough is almost fully baked.

Chop up the broccoli and put it in another bowl. Microwave it for 1 minute, or until it’s cooked.

Chop up the brie, then put it and the cooked broccoli on top of the pie crust.

Mix the eggs, milk, and salt in a separate bowl. Pour the mixture into the pie crust, over the brie and broccoli.

Microwave for 2 minutes, or until the eggs have cooked.

Now get out there and be that employee who brings cartons of eggs to the office.

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