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Fast fix dinner: Casseroles

Diana De Cicco is a food editor and writer based in New York City. She has a master's degree from New York University in Food Studies. Her passions are eating, traveling, and eating while traveling.

Classic to creative meals

Updated with fresh ingredients and creative ideas, casseroles can be a simple and filling meal for the family. Making them ahead keeps prep time to a minimum, and leftovers can be retooled for lunch or dinner the next day.

chicken and rice

Casseroles you can make ahead of time

Most casseroles can be prepared ahead of time and simply reheated when ready to enjoy. In fact, many even get better as the ingredients blend together. Simply combine all the ingredients in the casserole dish and refrigerate without cooking. When you are ready to eat, just pop the premade casserole into the oven and cook until bubbly. Most casseroles will last in the refrigerator uncooked for up to 24 hours. If you want to make it even further in advance, freeze it in aluminum foil unbaked for a few months. Then, just defrost and bake as directed.

Get the recipe for chicken, rice and veggie casserole >>

Casseroles aren't just for dinner

Casseroles are usually considered dinner food, but they also work great for breakfast and brunch. French toast or egg casseroles are perfect weekend brunch items, especially because they can be prepped in advance and cooked that morning, allowing you to sleep late and still enjoy a tasty meal. They are also great for quick weekday breakfasts for the kids. Instead of cold cereal, prep a breakfast casserole the night before and just reheat for a family on the go. You can even make delicious dessert casseroles that are perfect for when you want a simple sweet treat.

Casseroles travel well

Casseroles are great to bring to a potluck because they travel well. You can cook them at home, then reheat if needed at the party. They are simple to carry and can't be crushed or fall apart en route.

Casseroles taste even better the next day

Most casseroles taste even better the second day because the flavors have had time to settle and combine. Just reheat!

TIP

Casseroles are a great way to use leftovers from the day before. Grilled chicken from last night's dinner works perfectly in a casserole or with steamed vegetables or cooked pasta. When making a casserole, check the refrigerator before you purchase all the ingredients to see what you have left over that may work.

You can Get creative

If you don't have the specific ingredients that a recipe calls for, don't worry -- just substitute what you have. If a recipe calls for chicken and all you have is beef, add that instead (just remember to account for cooking times). Feel free to add whatever ingredients you have in your refrigerator or pantry that you want. Just think about what your favorite flavor combinations are and have fun creating a new recipe.

Casseroles save money

Casseroles are the perfect money-saving meals because you can get away with using low-end cuts of meat. Of course, you want to use the freshest ingredients possible, but when grocery shopping, look for cheaper cuts that, when combined with other ingredients, will taste exactly the same as the more expensive cuts.

Casseroles save time

When a recipe calls for vegetables, use precut or frozen vegetables to save time. Even precut meat works well in casseroles.

Up next: Casserole recipes >>

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