Reed Alexander knows what he wants to be when he grows up: a celebrity chef. In place of the ramen and day-old pizza that most teens embrace, Alexander is more of a carrot aficionado. And he certainly couldn’t live without his test tube spice rack, which is jam-packed with 40 different spices.
The 17-year-old actor on Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” has a not-so-secret passion for food. Good, fresh, healthy food. He loves the competitive programs on Food Network, like Chopped and Iron Chef; his own show, though, would have a less intense nature. “I’d call it Chilling with Reed,” he says. “I love to have people chill out with me around the dinner table.”
It’s a big moment for food and kids. Increasingly, children and teenagers are becoming sous-chefs alongside their parents in the kitchen. Yet to some, healthy food still has an “uncool” stigma. “There’s a myth that feeling great about yourself means grilled chicken and steamed broccoli,” Alexander says. “Sure, those foods are good for you, but they are not the full extent of pallet-pleasing options.” KewlBites.com, an online resource Alexander launched that is devoted to helping kids eat well, is a testament to creating an excitement around such foods. Think cranberry, walnut, and pear flatbread salad.
Admittedly slowly but surely, he’s making progress. Alexander visits schools across the country as a spokesman for the non-profit organization Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership of The William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association, to help fight childhood obesity. Recently, while talking to a crowd of “iCarly” fans at a New Jersey school, one student asked Reed about his favorite vegetable. For the rest of the week, carrots sold out in the cafeteria and the chefs had to triple their orders.
Alexander discovered his passion for healthy cooking two years ago, when he was “really overweight and lazy and lethargic.” He knew it was time to make a change, and when he couldn’t find helpful information from a kid’s perspective online, he decided to step up to the plate.
“I’ve always loved to get in the kitchen,” Alexander said. “So I decided it made a lot of sense for me to turn my kitchen into a science lab.” He began blogging and creating healthy twists on classics; instead of deep frying chicken nuggets, he coated them in egg whites, crushed Panko breadcrumbs, corn flake cereal, and dried herbs.
Alexander’s passion eventually led to KewlBites, which is stocked with healthy recipes like turkey meatballs made with grated zucchini instead of oil.
Cooking is also a pastime in Alexander’s family. His no-extra-butter-added apple pot pie is a Thanksgiving staple; on Sunday mornings, the one day of the week where the family is sure to be together, he whips up whole wheat Belgian waffles with his parents and grandparents. (The waffles’ secret ingredients? Unsweetened applesauce and skim milk replace the oil!)
“Food is transformative,” Alexander says of his aspirations in the food industry. “It can really bring back memories or places you’ve visited. It’s like a little souvenir.”
Try This: Mother's Day Breakfast
Breakfast in bed is a Mother's Day tradition in Reed's family. This year, he'll be cooking up his Margherita Frittata, which is like an open-facing omelette. If your children try cooking it now, they'll be experts by May 13!
- 5 whole large eggs
- 1/4 cup nonfat skim milk
- 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced into rounds
- 3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, diced into ½-inch cubes or triangles
- 3 tbsp fresh sliced basil, cut into thin strips, divided
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1 pinch ground black pepper
- Olive oil spray or nonstick cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat a 10-inch nonstick overproof skillet with olive oil spray or nonstick cooking spray and set over medium-high heat on the stovetop.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg whites, nonfat milk, 2 Tbsp of the basil, and the salt and pepper.
3. Once the skillet is well heated, reduced heat to medium-low and add egg mixture. Cook approximately 5 to 6 minutes, occasionally running a heatproof silicone spatula around the edge of the skillet to push the cooked egg into the liquid mixture and allow raw egg to run underneath to ensure even cooking.
4. When the mixture is mostly set but still liquid on its surface and in the center, carefully arrange the tomato slices and sprinkle the cheese and the remaining 1 Tbsp basil evenly across the surface of the frittata. If necessary, gently submerge these ingredients into the surface of the liquid egg by lightly pushing downward with the spatula.
5. Remove skillet from stovetop and place into oven. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the frittata is golden, fluffy, and slightly puffed.
6. Remove skillet from oven. Allow frittata to rest in pan for 2 to 3 minutes and then carefully slide out to remove onto a heatproof plate or dish. Serves 6.
Megan Hess is the digital editor at Parent & Child.
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Photos: Keith Munyan, Keith Munyan Photography