For most of us, it's difficult to find time to make a complete dinner from scratch every night. Whether you have a term paper to write, after-school activities for your children, or another late night at work, we all have evenings when cooking dinner seems like an impossible task. With a little bit of planning, make-ahead meals can help. Casseroles are particularly easy to freeze if you know a few basic tricks. If you could use a night off once in a while (without sacrificing dinner) make-ahead casseroles can help.casseroles a great choice for a make-ahead meal is that they can actually contain all the components of a full meal. It's easy to pack protein, whole grains, and a variety of vegetables into one dish and cook them together. And, by cooking all of the components of your dinner in one dish you're able to create something more delicious than the sum of its parts; casseroles are often cooked in a stock or sauce which allows the individual flavors to blend and enhance or complement one another.
Another reason that casseroles work well as a make-ahead meal is that most are easily frozen. There are a few tips to know when you’re freezing a casserole — like letting a cooked casserole cool completely before wrapping it tightly with plastic wrap and putting in the freezer or reheating a pre-cooked frozen casserole on a slightly lower heat setting than the recipe calls for so you won’t dry it out) —but most can be assembled and stored away in your freezer for several months. And, some can even be baked before they are frozen which means that all you will have to do when you're ready to eat is warm them through.
If you're in need of a few quick and filling meals, consider stocking your freezer with a few of these easy-to-make casseroles.
Sausage, Chicken, and White Bean Gratin
(Credit: One Pot/Christina Holmes)
The celebrated cassoulet of France inspired this stick-to-your-ribs dish, which uses chicken breast instead of the traditional duck or goose. Our big batch of this recipe from the One Pot cookbook is great for a party. This casserole is easy to make in advance, just wait to sprinkle the breadcrumbs and reserved bacon on top until the day you plan to serve it.
Click here for the recipe.
Lattice-Topped Turkey Casserole
This pretty lattice-topped casserole would be a perfect addition to any holiday table. It’s full of flavorful herbs like rosemary and thyme. If you don’t want to make your own pie crust from scratch, you can easily use a store-bought version instead. To make this casserole in advance, store it in the freezer, unbaked.
Click here for the recipe.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.