Thrifty and Healthy USDA Holiday Menus

//Thrifty and Healthy USDA Holiday Menus

Thrifty and Healthy USDA Holiday Menus

Whether you’re enjoying the holidays with a large family gathering or cooking for your child care kids, your food menu will no doubt include some delicious, traditional foods. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has created some traditional holiday dishes with a healthy twist. We encourage you to add in healthy elements to your holiday menus this season and swap unhealthy ingredients with more healthful alternatives. Please enjoy this list of USDA recipes!

All recipes and images are provided by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service in their “Healthy, Thrifty Holiday Menus“. “All recipes meet the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl Nutrition Criteria. Menus were not designed to meet requirements for any USDA or other government food assistance program.” Click here to read more.

Brown Rice Pilaf with Sage, Walnuts and Dried Fruit

Dried fruit and sage combine to give this whole grain dish a flavor of fall, but you can enjoy it any time of the year! Makes 8 servings.


canola cooking spray (as needed)
onion (medium, chopped)
celery stalks (small, ends trimmed and chopped)
2 cups rice (brown, uncooked)
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth (fat-free, reduced sodium)
1/4 cup raisins (dark)
1/4 cup apricots (dried, chopped)
walnuts (1/4 cup, chopped, optional)
1 teaspoon sage (dried)
2 teaspoons sage (fresh, chopped)
salt (to taste, optional)
pepper (to taste, optional)


  1. Spray the large skillet with canola cooking spray. Heat skillet over medium heat.
  2. Sauté onion and celery until tender, about 5 minutes. Add brown rice and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add water, broth, raisins, and apricots; heat to boiling. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 50 minutes.
  4. Stir in walnuts if desired, sage, salt and pepper.
  5. Transfer to serving dish. Garnish with fresh sage and serve immediately.

For nutrition information, please visit Brown Rice Pilaf with Sage, Walnuts and Dried Fruit  at What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

Beef Pot Roast

This pot roast recipe is seasoned with orange juice, allspice, and pepper for a savory meal. Makes 8 servings.


1/2 cup onion (chopped)
2 tablespoons water
2 1/2 pounds beef chuck roast (boneless)
2 cups water (hot)
1 beef bouillon (cube)
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon pepper


  1. In a small bowl, put the bouillon cube in 2 cups hot water. Stir it until the bouillon cube dissolves. This will make 2 cups of beef broth.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the broth, orange juice, allspice, and pepper.
  3. Peel and chop the onion, to make 1/2 cup chopped onion.
  4. Put 2 tablespoons water in the skillet. Heat on medium.
  5. Put the onion in the skillet. Simmer it until tender.
  6. Add the roast to the skillet. Brown it on all sides.
  7. Pour the broth mix over the meat in the skillet.
  8. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

For nutrition information, please visit Beef Pot Roast  at What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

Broccoli Rice Casserole

Pantry staples and frozen veggies combine to make a hearty, home-made main dish for dinner. Makes 12 servings.


1 1/2 cups rice
3 1/2 cups water
onion (medium, chopped)
1 can cream of mushroom, or chicken, or celery or cheese soup (10.75 ounce, condensed)
1 1/2 cups milk (1%)
7 1/2 cups broccoli or cauliflower or mixed vegetables (frozen, chopped)
1/2 pound cheese (grated or sliced)
3 tablespoons margarine (or butter)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease on 12x9x2 inch baking pan.
  2. In a saucepan mix rice, salt, and 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and set aside for additional 15 minutes.
  4. Saute onions in margarine (or butter) until tender.
  5. Mix soup, milk, 1/2 cup of water, onions, and rice. Spoon mixture into baking pan.
  6. Thaw and drain the vegetables and then spread over the rice mixture.
  7. Spread the cheese evenly over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until cheese is melted and rice is bubbly.

For nutrition information, please visit Broccoli Rice Casserole  at What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

Red Lentil Latkes

Traditionally, latkes are pancakes made from potatoes, but these latkes also include lentils, cheese, and hot sauce. Flavorful and tasty, this dish makes a great weeknight meal. Enjoy it along with a side salad. Makes 4 servings.


1/2 cup dry red lentils
potato, medium grated (about 1/2 pound, peeling is optional)
1 large egg
garlic clove, finely sliced
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated or other cheese (optional)
1 dash hot sauce (1-2 dashes, optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper (to taste, optional)
2 tablespoons canola oil (or olive oil, for cooking)


  1. Add the lentils to a medium saucepan and add water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, remove the excess water from the potato: you can either squeeze it by the handful, or put the entire pile on a clean tea towel and wring it out.
  3. Crack the egg in a medium bowl and beat it lightly. Add the potato, cooked lentils, garlic, green onion, and cheese and hot sauce if you’re using them in a medium bowl. Add the salt and a good grinding of black pepper, and stir until combined.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add a generous drizzle of oil (1-2 Tablespoons). Working in batches, so as not to crowd the pan, add clumps of the potato-lentil mixture (about the size of a golf ball or slightly larger works well), and flatten each as soon as it’s in the pan, making them about a half inch thick.
  5. Cook for about 4-5 minutes per side, until the latkes are deeply golden brown and cooked through. Add a little more oil to the pan for each additional batch. Serve immediately or keep the latkes warm in a 200°F oven for up to an hour.

For nutrition information, please visit Red Lentil Latkes  at What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

Applesauce Loaf Cake

Cinnamon, nutmeg, and toasted walnuts make this loaf cake taste as great as it smells. Makes 16 servings.


1/2 cup walnuts (chopped)
1 1/2 cups applesauce
1 egg
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour (all purpose)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (ground)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (ground)
1 cup raisins


  1. Wash hands well with soap and warm water.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 (8x4x2 inch) loaf pans.
  3. Toast walnuts in an ungreased skillet pan. Stir while heating on medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. They are done when they are brown and smell nutty. Set aside to cool.
  4. Mix applesauce, egg, sugar, oil and vanilla in a large bowl.
  5. Mix flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a smaller bowl.
  6. Pour flour mixture into applesauce mixture.
  7. Stir in raisins and cooled toasted nuts.
  8. Pour half of the batter into each greased pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes.
  9. Remove cakes from the oven. Cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pans to finish cooling. For best taste, let cakes cool a few hours before serving.

For nutrition information, please visit Applesauce Loaf Cake  at What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

Deep Dish Apple Cranberry Pie

Cranberries and apples are the perfect combination for this delicious homemade dessert. Makes 10 servings.


apples (large, peeled, cored, and sliced)
2 1/2 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour (all-purpose)
1 teaspoon apple pie spice
1 pie crust (prepared)


  1. Stir all ingredients (except for the pie crust) together in a medium-sized mixing bowl and place in a 10-inch deep dish pie pan.
  2. Place one pie crust on top of the fruits. Cut 3 or 4 slits to allow the steam to escape.\
  3. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour. Serve warm. Refrigerate any leftovers.

For nutrition information, please visit Deep Dish Apple Cranberry Pie  at What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl.

2018-12-12T20:48:05+00:00 December 12th, 2018|Categories: Holiday Season|0 Comments

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