Guest post: Cook an elegant meal for 6 for $30

This is a guest post from Chris Ambrose. His cooking and entertaining blog, This Guy Cooks, is full of great tips for entertaining and cooking gourmet meals on a budget. If you’re struggling to come up with last minute meal ideas for Christmas or New Year’s, this great menu could be your solution.

First I would like to thank Karen for letting me guest blog on her site over the holidays. I know that this has been a tough Christmas financially for lots of people this year. With all the doom and gloom out there about the economy, just about all of my friends and family are tightening the old belt over the holidays.

As Karen wrote in one of her previous posts, the holidays are supposed to be about being with your friends and loved ones and the wonderful memories that come from those times. In my family, it’s not Christmas without my Mom’s sticky buns. Both my sister and I are in our early 30s, and to be totally honest that’s all we really care about. I have no idea what I got for Christmas when I was 8, but I can tell you that we didn’t have sticky buns that year because Mom burned them.

While things are a bit tight for everyone this holiday season, please don’t pass up on to spending time with your friends and family because you think you can’t afford it. I have come up with a elegant dinner menu for 6 people that you should be able to do for under $30. Hopefully this helps you continue to have those wonderful memories and experiences over a great meal.

Dinner Menu

Roasted Pork Loin with an Apricot Glaze

Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Onions

Spinach Salad with Mandarin Oranges and a Honey Mustard Dressing

Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramel Sauce

Sweet Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cut 2 large sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Slice a half of a onion into roughly quarter inch slices. Toss the onion and sweet potatoes with salt and pepper, cumin, red chili powder, a dried herb of your choice (rosemary goes nicely). Place on a cookie sheet or roasting pan and put in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour until the sweet potatoes have finished cooking and are soft to the touch.

Pork Roast

Mix together a dry rub for your pork loin (about 3 lbs. roast) consisting of salt, pepper, dried oregano, and cumin (remember with cumin a little goes a long way!).

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet (love to use my 12″ case iron pan for this). Place the spice rubbed pork loin in the skillet and brown on all sides.

Once it’s browned on all sides, place it in the oven for about an hour or until you have an internal temp of 150 degrees.

For the glaze, take about a half a cup of apricot jam (peach also works well), and heat it in the microwave or on the stovetop. After the pork has been in for 30 minutes, brush the pork with the jam. Repeat this again after you take the pork out of the oven. Once the pork is finished let it rest for 10 minutes before carving it.


For this salad I normally just get a bag of pre-washed baby spinach and a can of mandarin oranges in light syrup. For the dressing just whisk together Dijon mustard, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and honey.


This is just a simple dessert. Pour a caramel sauce over a good quality vanilla ice cream. Feel free buy the sauce at the store or go ahead and make your own. It’s pretty easy.


I think that a Syrah would stand up nicely to the pork and fruit flavors of this dish. One of my favorite value Syrah blends is the 2006 Penfolds Kanooga Hill Shiraz/Cab blend. You can normally pick it up for about $7.99.

Check out Chris’s blog for more recipes & entertaining tips!