No matter how organized you are, mornings can be a hectic time of day for any family. Between getting the kids ready for school, walking the dog and getting yourself ready to go, there isn't a lot of time left over for cooking. Casseroles offer a quick, easy solution to the morning mealtime crunch. Not only can you make them ahead of time, these easy-to-bake dishes offer a versatile range of favors and contain many ingredients that can be purchased premade.
Make bacon and hashbrown casseroles from premade ingredients or, with some shortcuts, from scratch. If you're running short on time, use frozen hashbrowns. Simply thaw them overnight in the refrigerator or defrost them in the microwave in the morning. If you prefer to use fresh potatoes, shred them with a food processor for the quickest results or grate the potatoes using the largest holes on a hand-held cheese grater. Many types of bacon come precooked, but if you prefer to cook your own, cut it into pieces first to speed up the frying process. If you're using eggs to bind the casserole, purchase a carton of premixed eggs to save even more time.
Bacon and hashbrowns blend well with a range of other flavors. For a savory casserole, sauté chopped onion or minced garlic in the bacon drippings or in a splash of olive oil. Cook the hashbrowns first for a shorter overall baking time or add them to the casserole still frozen; just make sure to increase the baking time by a few minutes to compensate. Hold your casserole together with eggs or a can of low-fat cream of mushroom soup. Sprinkle some cheese on top before baking for extra flavor and that gooey, chewy texture that kids like.
Casseroles can be premade and stored in the refrigerator or frozen for up to four months. Before freezing or storing, cook the casserole to almost done, then set the dish in a pan or basin of ice water. Keep the water cold until the casserole is cool, then wrap it in freezer-safe, moisture- and vapor-resistant packaging and pop it in the freezer. The day before you're ready to eat the casserole, thaw it in the refrigerator, then reheat it in the oven to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Bacon and hashbrown casseroles can be healthy and delicious. Go ahead and sneak some vegetables in, as the strong flavor of bacon and the rich texture of potatoes tend to dominate the dish. Instead of using hashbrowns made only from white potatoes, include shredded sweet potatoes, which are rich in vitamins A and C. Slip in mild-tasting veggies, such as thinly sliced zucchini, or add strips of red bell peppers for a splash of color. If you're using eggs, leave out the yolks and just include protein-rich -- but cholesterol-free -- whites. Turkey or soy bacon contains less fat and cholesterol than traditional bacon. If your family is watching their sodium intake, choose a bacon with no added nitrates.