10 TV Dinner-Inspired Menus For Nostalgic Dining
Remember early foil-covered TV dinners with a special treat like a gooey brownie square or apple cobbler? Created in the 1950s as televisions became family room fixtures, TV dinners now are easily heated up in the microwave. Made more for convenience than gathering around a television set, today's TV dinners range from old favorites like turkey dinners to new options including protein bowls.
Now, you don't have to pull back the foil — you can simply make one of these 10 TV dinner-at-home options. To really get in the spirit, set it all up on one of these retro-inspired trays.
You can also give these menus the meal prep treatment: Make them ahead of time, and store them in a microwave-safe container so these meals can go from freezer to microwave to plate (or stay in the container). Check out some fun TV and movie tray-worthy viewing match-ups too for an extra-nostalgic event.
Sensational Salisbury Steak
One of the first TV dinners in the 50s was Salisbury steak. A comfort food grouping adults and kids alike can love, this trio includes the traditional "steak and potatoes" finished off with a chocolate cake treat. Serve it all up on these modern stoneware TV trays.
What to Watch: Bonanza TV
Take a Pie to the Tray
Pot pies became popular TV tray options with their all-in-one format. Try these modern pot pie options that feature the flavors of an Indian samosa or veggies.
If you start a meal with a savory pie, you may have to end it with a sweet one. Chef John's well-reviewed and easy apple pie is a cinch to store in this pie keeper that goes from freezer to microwave.
What to Watch: Waitress
Take a TV Tray Trip to Germany
Whether it is Oktoberfest or just a cool fall evening, you can enjoy a meal of yummy pork chops and traditional cabbage rolls finished off by an apple cake that is "chock full of apples." The pork chops live up to their succulent and juicy nature.. Allrecipes recipe creator prell2k4 recommends grilling or pan frying them.
What to Watch: The Monuments Men
Meet Up Over a Meatloaf
One of the most classic TV dinner options is meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Check out this "EZ" meatloaf and these easy ways to freeze and reheat the matching mashed potatoes.
Got leftover meatloaf? Slice it up for lots of weekday meals, making prep easy too. If you watch closely while you eat your this meat and potatoes meal, 60s icon Mrs. Cleaver may just serve up a meatloaf dinner, too.
What to Watch: Leave It to Beaver, Season 3
Pictured: Creamy White Chicken Enchiladas
Mexican Meal in Minutes
Early TV dinner diners ate up international meal offerings like enchiladas and tamales. Take a little trip of your own with these beef or chicken enchiladas. A hot tamale pie or chiles rellenos (billed by Allrecipes creator Fat~Dog~Lane as "just like your favorite Mexican restaurant!") add to the meal. A sopapilla pie in an easy bar format completes this south-of-the-border supper.
What to Watch: Three Amigos!
Serve Up Some Parm to the Famiglia
Another TV dinner combo was Italian favorites. Today's frozen family-sized lasagnas came during the journey from early TV dinners. Diners looking for variety loved the idea of Italian entrees in minutes. Create your own version of Italy with make-ahead chicken parmigiana and a side of spaghetti pie.
What to Watch: The Italian Job
Chop Up Dinner Time With Asian Favorites
Air travel became more realistic as televisions and TV dinners innovated in the 1950s. Diners dreamed of traveling to Asia. The TV dinner companies like Swanson answered with dinners including sweet-and-sour chicken and egg rolls. Make up your own international dining options with a freezer-friendly Thai Chicken and quick pork fried rice. It's easy to create individualized TV dinner options: each diner can choose what they want.
What to Watch: Jackie Chan's First Strike
Not Just for TV Dinners: Break for Breakfast
As TV dinners evolved, breakfast options entered the market leading to today's frozen breakfast burritos and sandwiches. Mix and match these sweet and savory options to create microwavable options that make mornings easier. From sheet pan blueberry pancakes to breakfast burritos, these options go well with the morning news and a cup of coffee.
What to Watch: Breakfast at Tiffany's
TV Trays and Thanksgiving
If you're watching the Thanksgiving Day parade or just re-runs, the earliest TV dinner option is a great one to recreate. Legend has it that the first TV dinner was Swanson's Thanksgiving turkey offering in the early 1950s. Create your own Thanksgiving dinner any time of the year with this slate of freezer-friendly recipes from a pumpkin cheesecake to cornbread dressing.
What to Watch: It's A Wonderful Life