For many new moms, new homeowners or home-bound folks, pre-made meals delivered with love from neighbors can make life so much easier. The trick is to store and preserve these items until you are ready for them -- in other words, using the freezer. If done properly, you can reheat frozen food in minutes while retaining the structure and many of the nutrients.
Remove the item from your freezer. Unwrap the food and place it on a microwave-safe dish. Cover the dish with a microwave-safe wrap. Slice ventilation cuts in the wrap to prevent steam buildup.
Using 50 to 70 percent of the microwave power, heat the item for 2 minutes. Open the microwave door and check your meal. Stir the food with a wooden spoon so that the heated portions are now at the bottom of the dish and the portions that need to be heated are at the top. Use caution when opening microwaved plastic bags, as the steam can cause burns as it escapes.
Set the microwave for another minute. Check and stir the food again. Continue heating, checking and stirring until your meal is thoroughly heated. Do not overheat the food.
Remove the item from your freezer. Unwrap the food and place it in a pot with 1/4 cup water. You may wish to substitute another type of liquid for the water, such as a chicken or vegetable broth, white wine or even sherry, depending upon what the original recipe likely called for when creating the meal.
Cover the pot and cook over medium-low heat for 25 to 30 minutes or until it is heated through. Stir occasionally. Add more water (or other broth, wine or sherry) if the liquid level gets too low.
Consider adding an additional 5 to 10 minutes to your reheating time if you are reheating three or more portion sizes.
Preheat the oven to 300 to 350 degrees. Remove the item from your freezer. Unwrap the food and place in a pan.
Allow the meal to cook for double the time it took to cook originally.
Check on the food occasionally. After the time is up, if the meal is not sufficiently heated throughout, continue to bake and check on it in 5-minute intervals until the desired temperature is achieved.
Food is better under-heated than overdone. Under-heated food can be placed back onto the stove or into the microwave until complete.
Do not heat plastic in the microwave. Do not put aluminum foil in the microwave. Meat and poultry will toughen if overcooked, so pay special attention to time when reheating these items.
Nicki Callahan began her literary career in 1989. Her work has appeared in "The Charlotte Observer," "The Patriot Ledger," "The Wasatch County Courier," "Utah Homes & Garden Magazine" and "The Retired Officer Magazine." Callahan studied English literature and creative writing at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Utah.