Amanda Freitag's Most Memorable Afterschool Snacks - Exclusive

Whether you've been following chef Amanda Freitag since the beginning of her TV career or only recently tuned in to her "Easy AF" web series, the New Jersey native is an endless source of inspiration for food lovers everywhere. The bubbly chef has judged countless dishes during her tenure on the hit show "Chopped," and her 2015 cookbook – "The Chef Next Door" – is a must-have for any Food Network fan. The chef's culinary prowess has also led her to develop a line of gourmet seasonings called AF Spices and pre-mixed beverages known as Freitag Chef's Cocktails.

It's only natural to wonder how a chef of Freitag's caliber got her start. In "The Chef Next Door," Freitag explains that her childhood was filled with afterschool snacking adventures. To learn more about the details of her formative years in her family's kitchen, Mashed caught up with the television star for an exclusive interview.

"We had a lot of frozen stuff that my parents would load up in the freezer," she tells Mashed. While nostalgic packaged favorites like frozen French bread pizza and Steak-umms were always fixtures of the menu, Freitag also gave us the details on several of her signature afterschool snack recipes, including homemade pizza bagels and grilled cheese sandwiches.

The toaster oven 'was on a workout'

Much of Amanda Freitag's afterschool menu consisted of traditional comfort foods she whipped up from scratch. Pizza was a perennial favorite in the Freitag household. "We would make our sort of toasted bagels that were like pizza bagels — a little tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. We'd put on dried oregano," Freitag tells Mashed. Her spice cabinet wizardry may have been an early inspiration for her AF Spices line's Jersey Italian seasoning, which the chef notes would be a perfect complement to any homemade pizza bagel recipe.

Like many American school kids, Freitag and her friends also couldn't get enough of classic frozen convenience foods. "We had French bread pizzas, and we had Steaks-umms that we'd make little sandwiches with," she says. "So the toaster oven was on a workout, with either the French bread pizzas, the bagels, or the grilled cheese," adds Freitag.

But out of all the afterschool treats she toasted to perfection, there's one melty meal that holds a special place in her heart to this day. "I love to make grilled cheese because I get to work with the pan," she explains. Take it from Freitag — there's no better way to unwind after a long school day than with a perfect grilled cheese sandwich made from scratch.