As a working single parent, between her duties shuffling us to choir, football, basketball and more, my mom was one busy lady. That’s why casseroles were her quick and easy go-to meal. In fact, the smell of her macaroni and cheese casserole still reminds me of being a kid.
Today, as a busy single woman myself, even though I don’t have kids, I still cook casseroles as a major time saver, just like my mom. And when it’s dinner party time, I count on these big-batch dishes to help me feed dozens. No matter what stage of life you’re enjoying, here’s how casseroles can cut the time you spend in the kitchen during the week.
Single and want more time to mingle? During the week, I use casseroles as a grab-and-go lunch or dinner option. Once my casserole has cooled (depending on the dish, I sometimes let it harden in the fridge first), I divide it into single-serving squares and freeze them individually in freezer-safe containers. In the morning, I grab a portion from the fridge, toss it into my lunch bag and let it thaw during the day. I heat up my leftovers for a quick, yummy lunch.
Got a family of four or more? Sundays were our family’s “big batch cooking day.” We’d pile into the kitchen, cook two or three different casseroles for the week and freeze them. The next morning, my mom would put a casserole in the fridge to defrost. When she got home from work, she’d grab the casserole from the fridge and warm it in the oven. In less than half an hour, it was dinnertime.
Cooking for a crowd? My friends and co-workers jokingly call me Casserole Kim. For just about every office party, dinner party or potluck, I show up with a delicious casserole or two. When I’m cooking for a big group, doubling recipes makes things even easier. Plus, I let someone else do the prep work by grabbing frozen or fresh pre-chopped veggies, jarred sauces and shredded cheese. And, so that I only buy what I need, I head to the bulk aisle and meat departments for exact portions of pastas, grains and meats.
Casserole Dinner Solutions
Here are a few super simple ideas to get you started:
- Winter Squash Lasagna (a favorite of mine): add layers of pureed, roasted butternut or acorn squash to your favorite lasagna recipe for added veggies and creaminess. Don't have a favorite lasagna recipe? Start with one of ours.
- Sausage and Peppers Baked Ziti: add browned Italian sausage, sautéed peppers and chard to a mix of saucy ziti and stir in a blend of ricotta cheese and parmesan
- Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie: top a mixture of vegetables and ground lamb or beef with a layer of smooth sweet potatoes, like in this recipe for Harvest Vegetable Shepherd's Pie
Or warm your oven with some of these:
What’s your favorite casserole? Do share!