Ode to the TV Dinner

Here we are – singing the praises of TV Dinners once more. You would think that we’d be serving up slices of turkey, cornbread stuffing, peas and sweet potatoes, the original offerings in 1953. We aren’t – and for very good, personal reasons.

First off, have you ever rewarmed turkey – or most poultry for that matter? Make a sauce or shred the meat and it’s fine. But fried chicken or slices of roast turkey rewarmed and something happens – it seems to loose its appeal. Although an open face turkey sandwich can be very tasty. But then again, it’s more about the gravy than the slices of turkey.

The other reason we aren’t doing turkey is because I have a special place in my heart for Salisbury Steaks when it comes to TV Dinners. The first TV Dinner I ever ate was Salisbury Steak with mashed potatoes and a side of corn. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I know it sounds crazy. I grew up on home-cooked meals. So things like Spaghetti in a can or TV Dinners was somehow exotic and exciting. I completely overlooked that fact that, at least at the time, the spaghetti lacked flavors and the Salisbury Steak tasted like ground cardboard held together with paste.

It really wasn’t until the introduction of the microwave that frozen dinners became a matter of convenience. I can remember when I moved out and had a place of my own. I stocked up on Swanson TV Dinners. How convenient! Turned out, by the time the oven had heated and the frozen dinner was cooked, nearly an hour had passed. The only thing convenient was kitchen clean up.

Growing up, we didn’t eat in front of the TV. With exception of 1 friend, the only child of alcoholic parents, I didn’t know any families that did. I don’t think my parents ever owned TV trays. Family meals were always at the table, and a TV wasn’t even in the room. Yet we heard rumors that some families ate while glued to their television sets. I suppose it was the novelty of television that helped to promote the very idea of TV Dinners – entire meals designed to be consumed while watching TV.

I believe in the value and sanctity of family mealtime. That said, celebrating the spirit of TV Dinners is fun. Think of it as an odd Holiday Tradition. Enjoy!

Throw-Back TV Dinner
Hamburger Steak with Onion Gravy
Creamy Instant Mashed Potatoes
Frozen Mixed Vegetables


Hamburger Steak with Onion Gravy
2 White Onions
2 Garlic Cloves
1 lb Ground Sirloin
Salt to taste
Black Pepper to taste
Beef Stock as needed
1 spring fresh Thyme
1 tablespoon Arrowroot or Wondra Flour
2 cups Beef Stock
1 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

Peel onions, slice thinly and set aside. Peel garlic, mince and set aside.

Make 4 equal patties from the ground beef. Season well with salt and pepper. Cook in non stick skillet until medium-rare, about 5 minutes per side side. Remove patties to a plate. Cover and keep warm.

To the now empty skillet scatter onions with a splash or two of beef stock to prevent onions from sticking as they cook. Season well with salt and pepper. Once the onions begin to soften, add thyme sprig and garlic. Continue to cook another few minutes.

Mix thickening agent with a little stock and set aside.

Pour 2 cups of beef stock over the onions and bring to simmer. Add the thickening mixture, stir until thickened. Add Worcestershire, taste gravy and adjust seasoning.

Return beef patties to the skillet. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes longer or until cooked through. Turn patties in the gravy, spooning some of the onion mixture over the meat. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Creamy Instant Mashed Potatoes
1 cup Milk
1 cup Water
1 pouch Idahoan Creamy Buttery Homestyle Mashed Potatoes
2 tablespoons Butter

In a large microwave safe bowl, heat milk and water for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from microwave.

Empty pouch of instant potatoes into the hot liquid. Let sit for a minute or two. Whip with a fork. Add butter. Fluff.

Mixed Vegetables
1-1/2 cups Frozen Petite Mixed Vegetables
Water as needed
Garlic Salt to taste

Empty vegetables into a bowl. Pick through green beans, cut in half or thirds if beans are long.

Place frozen vegetables in a sauce pan. Add just enough water to barely cover the bottom and create steam during cooking. Warm vegetables over medium heat until heated through. Season with garlic salt, toss and keep warm.


For that Real TV Dinner experience, use four 3-compartment food servers. Place a hamburger steak patty into each of the larger compartments. Divide mixed vegetables and mashed potatoes among the servers in the smaller compartments.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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