Today is National TV Dinner Day, not to be confused with National Frozen Food Day. While Frozen Food Day celebrates the convenience of all foods frozen and has been observed on March 6th since then President Ronald Regan signed a proclamation in 1984, today is strictly all about the notion of TV Dinners.
TV Dinners were inspired by the Airline Industry. The metal trays, the different compartments for meat, vegetable and potato, and the individual serving sizes. Hot meals began appearing on flights in 1946. These frozen entrees were heated in ovens mid-flight, inspiring an entirely new concept for home cooks.
While Swanson Foods did not invent the concept of frozen dinners, they did make the term TV Dinner a household name with the introduction of TV Brand Frozen Dinner in 1953. By 1955, half of all homes in America had a television set. Swanson’s convenient pre-cooked frozen TV dinners allowed people to eat a hot meal together without anyone missing their favorite television show. Swanson stopped using the trade name in 1962, instead marketing their foods as Frozen Dinners.
In 1973 Swanson hit pay dirt once again with the introduction of The Hungry Man frozen dinner line. The serving portions were larger, with a target market of single and divorced men who possessed minimal cooking skills.
Aluminum trays of frozen TV dinners were replaced with plastic, microwave-safe trays in 1986. The following year the original TV Dinner tray was placed in the Smithsonian Institute to commemorate the tray’s impact on American culture, guaranteeing forever TV Dinners’ place in history. In 2000, Swanson Foods received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
While TV Dinners have been around almost as long as I have, it wasn’t until high school that I had my first Salisbury Steak TV Dinner. While my mother served up home cooked meals and we ate together at the dinner table, far from a television set, I had a friend who grew up eating TV Dinners in front of the TV. She loved having dinner at my house, and I though she had the perfect life free from family chatter. In time I came to realize I was the lucky one.
Today’s recipe isn’t truly a TV Dinner, buy it does offer all the convenience of one with coupled with the importance of gathering at the supper table. Happy TV Dinner Day – enjoy!
Conveniently Delicious Family Supper
Make-Ahead Frozen Meatloaf
Instant Mashed Potatoes
Canned Green Beans
2 Yellow Onions, diced
5 lbs Ground Beef
4 cups Italian Breadcrumbs
2-1/2 cups Marinara Sauce
Kosher Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Italian Seasoning
5 lbs Pork Sausage
1-1/4 cups Milk
Peel and dice onions, set aside.
Break apart ground beef, place in a large mixing bowl. Top beef with diced onions, breadcrumbs and marinara sauce. Season with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. Break apart ground sausage and scatter over beef mixture.
In another bowl, whisk together milk and eggs. Pour over meat mixture. With hands, mix meats together until blended evenly. DO NOT overwork the meat.
Divide meatloaf mixture into 6 loaves. Press each loaf into a 9-inch by 5-inch Aluminum Loaf Pan.
1-1/2 cups Marinara Sauce
Pour 1/4 cup Marinara Sauce over each loaf, brush to spread sauce over the top of the loaf completely.
Tightly cover tops of the pans with foil, pressing out as much air as possible, crimp around edge to seal. Wrap entire pan again in heavy-duty foil.
Cut strips of painter’s tape, 3 rows of tape for each pan. With a sharpie, label each loaf:
Italian Meatloaf, Date
Thaw overnight in Refrigerator
Bake at 350-degrees for 40 minutes
Instant Homestyle Mashed Potatoes
2 pouches Idahoan Baby Red Mashed Potatoes
2 cups Water
2 cups Milk
2 tablespoons Butter
Heat water, milk and butter in a large micro-wave dish for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, empty packages into the hot liquid. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Note: Idahoan Instant Mashed Potatoes comes in a variety of flavors from Applewood Bacon to Sour Cream and Chives. The instructions are the same for each type. Since the potatoes have a long shelf-life, pick up a variety to change up each frozen meatloaf supper as desired.
Kitchen Cut Green Beans
2 cans Kitchen Cut Green Beans
2 tablespoons Butter
Drain green beans in a strainer, rinse well under cold water. Place green beans in a microwave-safe serving bowl. Top with butter.
Microwave on HIGH for 2 minutes. Stir to blend butter into the beans. Microwave another minute or until headed through.
Serve and enjoy.
Note: This will work with canned corn or carrots or a variety of other canned vegetables. Mix things up with each frozen meatloaf for a variety of different suppers.