It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking for yourself, your family or a table of friends, life is easier when you can make a great dish in advance and refrigerate it for another day. It’s no secret I’m a prep-ahead gal, and I do it for two reasons: First, so that I’m not running around the kitchen at the last minute when people are already hungry and second, so I can relax and have a cocktail while dinner cooks.
Whatever your reason for cooking ahead, I’ve got a few recipes for make-ahead casseroles that you can enjoy any night of the week. Oh, and by the way, they’re super-nutritious and lower in calories and fat than their traditional counterparts because I’ve swapped a few ingredients here and there. Check ‘em out, then send me YOUR favorite fridge and freezer-friendly dishes.
Chicken-Asiago Casserole with Rice and Fire-Roasted Tomatoes: Combine 2 cups cooked white or brown rice, 1 pound cubed chicken breasts, 1 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese and 2 teaspoons dried oregano, add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Mix well and transfer mixture to a baking dish. Top with 1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese. Cover with plastic, refrigerate up to 2 days. Remove plastic, cover with foil; bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes; uncover and bake for 15 more minutes, until cheese is golden; top with fresh chopped basil.
Baked Ziti with Seared Zucchini: Cook 1 pound ziti noodles, set aside. Sear 2 sliced medium zucchini in olive oil until golden brown on both sides; set aside. Combine 15 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese and 1 tablespoon salt-free Italian seasoning. Spoon 1/2 cup of your favorite tomato sauce into the bottom of a baking dish; top with 1/3 of the cooked ziti, half of the ricotta mixture and half of the seared zucchini. Pour over 1/2 cup of pasta sauce; repeat layers (1/3 of the pasta, remaining ricotta mixture, remaining zucchini and 1/2 cup sauce. Top with remaining pasta, 1/2 cup sauce and 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese. Cover with plastic, refrigerate up to 3 days. When ready to serve, remove plastic, cover with foil; bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes; uncover and bake 15 more minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
Beef and Corn Casserole With Two Cheeses: Cook 1 pound lean ground beef in a little olive oil until browned and drain fat if necessary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper; stir in 1 1/2 cups salsa, 1 cup frozen white corn, 1 cup shredded 2 percent sharp cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup light sour cream; transfer the mixture to a baking dish; top with 1/2 cup shredded pepper jack cheese. Cover with plastic, refrigerate up to 3 days. Remove plastic, bake at 375oF for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
TELL US: What are your favorite make-ahead dishes?
Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.