I love to cook. (I actually enjoy doing the dishes, too!) Cooking brings me joy. Besides for the therapeutic and rhythmic aspects — and all the aromas — from cutting, whisking, slicing, and searing, I also get satisfaction from feeding people. But there are times when I just wish I can open the fridge or freezer and, voila, dinner is already made. Somehow, a kitchen fairy snuck into my home and whipped up a meal that can be served in minutes — one that’s as easy as thaw, heat, and serve! Whether you’re too busy to cook or hosting a party for the holidays — or any occasion — an already-made meal is ideal.

Harry & David prepared meals take the guesswork out of meal prep and planning, says Andrew Whitticar, the brand’s senior merchandising manager of specialty foods. “They allow you to focus on the important things, like entertaining, family, and friends.” His favorite is the Cherry-Glazed Pan-Seared Lamb Chops. And who can blame him? Just look at those chops!

Prepared meals deconstructed with a plate of cooked lamb chops.

You can create a gut-busting wholesome meal experience from end to end, Whitticar points out, with deliciously crafted appetizersentreessides, and desserts. These inspiring meals “really require minimal effort to make you look like a cooking show star!”

We thought it would be fun to illustrate the main ingredients that go into making some of our favorite prepared meals, a prepared meal deconstruction if you will, that then become the star of your dinner table.

Chicken Pot Pie

Ingredients: Water, Unbleached Pastry Flour, Seasoned Chicken, Whole Milk, Potatoes, Carrots, Onion, Peas, Corn, Celery, Butter, Chicken Base/Stock, Dried Carrot Juice, Turmeric, Sea Salt

Chicken pot pie is perhaps the greatest comfort food of all time, and this traditional version has one of the flakiest crusts on either side of the Mississippi, along with the savoriest of fillings.

prepared meals deconstructed POT PIE

Beef Wellington

Ingredients: Beef Tenderloin, Unsalted Butter, Pastry Dough, White Mushrooms, Water, Onion, Eggs, Canola Oil, Breadcrumbs, Salt, Black Pepper, Onion Powder, Granulated Garlic, Parsley

Filet mignon on its own is quite the impressive and elegant — yet simple — dish. Now take that tender, juicy filet and coat it with a savory duxelles and encrust it with a flaky, buttery pastry, and you have beef Wellington. This savory conversation starter, which makes for a lovely addition to any holiday table, was named after the first Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley, for his victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815.

prepared meals deconstructed Wellington

Farfalle in Lemon Sauce with Chicken, Artichokes, and Mushrooms

Ingredients: Water, Mushrooms, Asiago Cheese , Whole Milk, Grilled Chicken Breast, Artichokes, Farfalle Pasta, Onion, Unsalted Butter, Canola Oil, Lemon Juice, Salt, Lemon Zest, Thyme, Black Pepper

If the food pyramid handed out blue ribbons, this dish would surely receive one, as it offers a mouthwatering mix of protein, carbs, vegetables, and even dairy (shredded Asiago cheese!). And it looks so special, you may want to get dressed up to eat it. A bowtie perhaps?

prepared meals deconstructed Farfalle

Warm-Me-Up Tomato Bisque Bread Bowl Kit

Ingredients: San Marzano Tomatoes, Basil, Roasted Red Peppers , Vegetable Stock, Heavy Cream, Tomato Paste, Olive Oil, Brown Sugar, Sea Salt, Ginger, Onion Powder, Dehydrated Garlic

While chicken pot pie may be one of the best comfort foods, a big bowl of tomato soup — especially one where the bowl is made of sourdough bread — may top it. The first time I had a soup bread bowl was après-ski in Vermont in 2001. I was sold and hooked immediately! Each slurp warms your entire body. Plus, you can eat the bowl, so cleanup is nearly nil. An unexpected surprise with this prepared meal is the two double chocolate chunk cookies. All that’s missing is the grilled cheese for dipping.

prepared meals deconstructed Tomato Bisque

Quinoa-roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Ingredients: Roasted Sweet Potatoes, White Quinoa, Red Quinoa, Sweetened Dried Cranberries, Red Bell Pepper, Green Bell Pepper, Water, Lemon Juice, Canola Oil, Orange Juice Concentrate, Salt, Granulated Garlic, Black Pepper

Quinoa is vegan. Sweet potatoes are vegan. So are the cranberries and red and green peppers. If you weren’t down with grains and vegetables before, you will be after eating this flavor-packed salad.

prepared meals deconstructed Quinoa Salad

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Jason Stahl is an Emmy Award winner who has reported on just about everything from the future of terrorism to North Korean tourism and why Las Vegas is great for kids. He’s interviewed countless personalities from Gene Simmons to Common to Sir Richard Branson. He’s held editorships at WONDERLUST, SPIN, Google, Men’s Fitness, Muscle & Fitness, MSN News, NBC Sports and Centennial Media. Stahl’s the co-author of 20 Things You Didn’t Know About Everything: Duct Tape, Airport Security, Your Body, Sex in Space… And More. The aspiring deli man lives with his wife and son in Jersey City Heights where he operates Hank Schwartz’s Delicatessen & Appetizing.

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