chef sophia manatakis

James Lambridis, Founder/CEO of DebtMD


Most people’s weekend plans consist of a wide range of activities: grabbing a drink at the local pub, catching the latest flick at the movie theater, and going out to eat. According to The Simple Dollar, the average meal outside the home costs a person $12.75. For a couple, the cost of eating out once a week for an entire year is over $1,200. This is also assuming you aren’t ordering that expensive wagyu beef or tuna tartare when you do decide to go out for a meal. Luckily, DebtMD had the chance to speak to reknown Chef Sophia Manatakis. Chef Sophia was featured on the Food Network on the hit shows "Chopped" and “Family Showdown.” Try out these five delicious, cost effective meals from the chef herself.

Sophia's Chicken Soup

1. Sophia’s Chicken Soup


  • 1 whole pre-cooked chicken from supermarket - $5  (Shred the meat, and save 1 ½ cups of chicken for next recipe.) 

  • 2 big carrots from farmers' market - $1.50

  • 1 bunch of celery from farmers' market - $1.99

  • 1 bay leaf 

  • 1 can of V8 vegetable juice - $2.00

  • 1 onion from farmers' market -  $0.25

  • 4 quarts of water

Total Cost: $10.74


  1. Pour 4 quarts of water into a pot adding the bones from the chicken, and bay leaf; this will insure the broth has maximum flavor

  2. Simmer for 1 hour

  3. Dice all the veggies, and add a can of V8 juice to the pot

  4. Cook for 35 minutes until veggies are tender

  5. Salt pepper to taste 

  6. Serve and enjoy! 

Fully Loaded Quesadilla

2. Fully Loaded Quesadilla


  • 1 1/2 cup of the reserved chicken from the chicken soup

  • 1 can refried beans - $1.20

  • 1 yellow pepper - $1.00

  • 1 onion - $0.66

  • a package or Tortillas (8 total for recipe) - $2.50 

  • shredded Mexican cheese blend (2 cups total for recipe) - $2.50

  • 2 cloves chopped garlic 

  • 1/2 tablespoon of Mexican blend seasoning 

  • Optional: cumin, chili powder, chipotle spices that you have from home

Total Cost: $5.36 


  1. Sauté all veggies in olive oil with seasoning until tender 

  2. Set aside veggies in a bowl with the chicken and mix 

  3. Drizzle olive oil in the pan and set to medium low heat 

  4. Place tortilla in the pan

  5. Sprinkle half of the tortilla with 1/2 cup of cheese and the other half of the tortilla with 3 tablespoons of the refried beans. Doing it this way will ensure the cheese is fully melted, and the beans can be spread on the tortilla 

  6. Immediately add the chicken and veggie mixture, and place another tortilla on top 

  7. Cover and cook for 2 minutes each side 

  8. Cut into slices, and serve 

This meal is quick, easy, and full of protein! Adults and children will enjoy!

Eggplant Stack

3. Eggplant Stack 


  • 2 large eggplants - $2.00 

  • 1 pounds of ground turkey - $3.99

  • One 24 ounces of can of tomato sauce (my favorite is Rao’s) - $6.00

  • 16 ounces of cottage cheese 

  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese - $3.99

  • 1 cup mozzarella - $2.50 

  • 1 cup fresh basil

Total Cost: $18.48 - with tons of leftovers, which are great to freeze for another dinner!

This recipe is great, because it only takes 15 minutes to prepare before baking in the oven. The meal is high in protein and easily satisfies anyone that loves eggplant rollatini - without the guilt!  


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

  2. Add cottage cheese to a blender with salt pepper, parmesan cheese, and basil

  3. Whip until smooth; the cottage cheese should have a ricotta-like consistency

  4. Peel each eggplant with a potato peeler, and slice 5 centimeter inch disks. You should have approximately 20 slices of eggplant

  5. In a pot, brown the ground turkey with salt and pepper for 5 minutes 

  6. Add the sauce, and shut heat off immediately (it will continue to cook in the oven, as long as you keep the oven door close) 

  7. Spoon tomato mixture on the bottom of a baking dish. Now you are ready to stack!

  8.  Lay down the first layer of eggplants, spooning your “ricotta” mixture over each eggplant individually

  9. Cover with another slice of eggplant, and add more sauce over. Repeat until all eggplant is finished 

  10. Cook in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour or until eggplant is soft


Chicken Piccata Pasta

4. Chicken Piccata Pasta 


  • 1 pound spaghetti - $1.00

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise in half - $6.00

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/4 cup diced shallots $1.00

  • 3/4 cup chicken broth - $0.99

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine* - $2.00 (mini bottles at register from local liquor store)

  • Juice from 1 lemon -  $0.50

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream $2.50

  • 1/4 cup capers, drained - $1.50

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves - $0.50

Total Cost: $15.49


  1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions; drain well.

  2. Season chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. 

  3. Working one at a time, dredge chicken in flour.

  4. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. 

  5. Add chicken, and cook, flipping once, until cooked through, about 4-5 minutes on each side. 

  6. Set aside and keep warm.

  7. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the skillet.

  8.  Add garlic and shallots, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

  9. Stir in chicken broth, wine and lemon juice. 

  10. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

  11. Gradually whisk in heavy cream until slightly thickened, about 3-4 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

  12. Stir in capers.

  13. Serve immediately with pasta and chicken, garnished with parsley, if desired

Mongolian Beef with Rice

5. Mongolian Beef with rice 


  • 1 pound flank steak $8.00

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch $1.79

  • 1/4 cup canola oil oil $3.58

  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger minced $1.00

  • 1 tablespoon garlic minced

  • 1/3 cup lite soy sauce $2.69

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar$2.29

  • 4 stalks scallions green parts only, cut into 2 inch pieces $0.80

  • White rice $2.00 

Total Cost: $22.15



  1. Slice the flank steak against the grain (the grain is the length of the steak) into 1/4 inch thick pieces, and addto a Ziploc bag with cornstarch

  2. Press the steak around in the ba,g making sure each piece is fully coated with cornstarch. Leave it to sit

  3. Add canola oil to a large frying pan, and heat on medium high

  4. Add the steak, shaking off any excess corn starch, to the pan in a single layer

  5. Cook on each side for 1 minute. If you need to cook the steak in batches because your pan isn't big enough, do that rather than crowding the pan;  you want to get a good sear on the steakm and if you crowd the pan, your steak with steam instead of sear

  6. When the steak is done cooking, remove it from the pan

  7. Add ginger and garlic to the pan and sauté for 10-15 seconds

  8. Add soy sauce, water and dark brown sugar to the pan and let it come to a boil

  9. Add the steak back in and let the sauce thicken for 20-30 seconds.The cornstarch we used on the steak should thicken the sauce, if you find it isn't thickening enough add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch to 1 tablespoon of cold water and stir to dissolve the cornstarch and add it to the pan.

  10. Add the green onions, stir to combine everything, and cook for a final 20-30 seconds.



  • 1 cup long grain rice

  • 2  cups water

  • 1 teaspoon salt 

  • 1 teaspoon butter (optional)1⁄2 teaspoon white vinegar (optional)


  1. In a saucepan with a good fitting lid, bring water, salt and optional ingredients if desired to a boil. The salt and butter are simply for flavor. The vinegar keeps your grains separated and gives you a prettier dish. No one will taste the vinegar at all!

  2. Add rice and stir

  3. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. You will know that your temperature is correct if a little steam is visible leaking from the lid. A lot of steam means your heat is too high.

  4. Cook for 20 minutes.

  5. DO NOT LIFT LID! The steam that is trapped inside the pan is what allows the rice to cook properly


The total of cost of all meals is $72.63 for a family of four.

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