I want to heat up rice or pasta at work so I can have a hot meal with rice and chicken or pasta and chicken. There is a microwave there - can I use that?
To reheat left over rice, microwave is the best! Put a clean damp (wet but not runny) cloth or paper towel on top of your rice in a microwave safe dish and heat it for 2 minutes. Don't put a lid on top of the dish.
Left over pasta is always gross, no matter how you reheat it. So stick with microwave. If you pasta is not super saucy, same method (with a damp paper towel) would apply to pasta, otherwise, just heat with a lid on.
That's what a microwave is for! The easiest way to do your rice is to cook big batches of it at a time at home and then freeze it in Ziplocs in individual servings. Then just heat it up at lunchtime. Like this: Safe to wash rice the night before and leave overnight before cooking?.
You can do the same thing with your chicken, just cook it in advance. If you have a fridge at work, great. If not, by bringing the cooked chicken to work frozen, your food safety risk would be almost nil. You could be even safer by packing it with ice packs.
The whole thing would take maybe 1.5 minutes in the microwave.
EDIT: So all you're doing at work is reheating, you've cooked everything in advance at home. For pasta, it's best to mix the pasta with sauce before chilling. It can be frozen in individual servings as well, but that isn't as ideal as it is with rice.
There are a few things that you can do to improve how well pasta reheats, but it requires a little more work up-front.
First off, the sauce (containing moisture or fat) will change how well the pasta reheats. One solution to this is to keep the two seperate. Pull the pasta when it's still al dente or a little bit before, rinse it to stop the cooking, mix in a little bit of oil to keep it from clumping together too much, then portion it out before chilling it.
When you want to eat it, heat the sauce to hotter than you'd want for eating it, then mix the sauce and the pasta together, cover, and allow the temperature to equalize for a minute or two.
As for the chicken, it likely depends on how large of pieces it's cut into. I'd likely warm it through on low power, then heat the sauce and mix them all together.
Of course, this isn't 100% universal:
- This won't work with a cream sauce. You'll want to only barely heat the sauce through.
- For the times when there isn't much sauce to give the necessary thermal mass, such as with pesto, you're better off mixing it together before portioning it out, then microwaving it as a lower power to warm through. You'll want to mix it once or twice during heating for best results.
- If you increase the flavor (some extra crushed garlic, herbs and possibly hot paprika or crushed red pepper), you don't need to heat up the pasta as much. You'll want to warm it through so it's pliable again if it's strands (spaghetti, linguini, fettucini, etc), but you don't need to get it much above room temperature.
Also, if you're specifically looking for something warm and comforting that contains pasta and chicken ... consider soup. Simply treat it like my recommendations, but you have enough thermal mass from the broth that you don't need to take it significantly above eating temperature.