Photos by Shannon Richardson

At AmTech Career Academy, high school culinary students learn in what is literally one of the best commercial kitchen suites in the state. Guided by experienced chefs Rhonda Obenhaus and Larry Garcia, students in the School of Culinary Arts not only learn foundational cooking methods, but also have the opportunity to earn industry-specific certifications and actually serve food to their peers.

For this issue, Obenhaus asked students in her Culinary 1 class to choose and develop recipes kids could make—possibly with some assistance from grown-ups—during the holiday season. The students categorized these dishes by age, choosing simpler recipes for younger home cooks.

Ever the educator, Obenhaus says the kitchen should always feel a bit like a classroom, whether you’re working with teenagers or helping a 6-year-old crack eggs. “I try really hard not to do it for them,” she says. “The only way they’re going to learn is if they try. If they mess up, then it’s a good experience. The only way we’re going to learn in the kitchen is by making mistakes.”

For parents leading young children through these recipes, she recommends keeping the atmosphere as fun and lighthearted as possible. “Don’t be hard on them,” she says. And try to set aside your own preferences or anxieties. “If you’re really picky about messes or keeping things clean, you’re going to be yelling at them,” she laughs. “We don’t want that.”

In the AmTech kitchens, students prepared these dishes for Brick & Elm while we observed. The recipes on these pages and the finished dishes in the photographs are the result.

Ages 6 to 8 years

French Toast

“These are easy, simple steps and kids can choose the toppings,” says Makinze Gutierrez, a Palo Duro High School junior who helped prepare this dish. She was joined by two other students, and Obenhaus says working as a team in the kitchen is a great way to divide and conquer. French toast requires multiple steps but they’re all relatively simple. One child can crack eggs. Another can whisk. Another can dip the bread into the batter.

“I like to use a pie pan when they’re dipping [the toast] because it’s very shallow and they can [easily] get the right amount,” she says. “They can drop the butter onto a hot pan and watch it sizzle, but the adult’s job is going to be to turn [the toast].”

Keely Wethington
Recipe from Southern Living, Jessica Furniss

2 large eggs
⅔ cup whole milk (or high-fat milk alternative)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Dash salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Dash cinnamon (optional)
6 slices bread of choice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, dividedToppings such as fruit, syrup, butter or powdered sugar

Whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Whisk until well blended. Dip bread slices in egg and milk mixture, then flip and soak the other side. Heat skillet on medium-high heat; melt butter. Add bread slices and cook 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown. Flip each side and cook an additional 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown. Top with butter and syrup or preferred toppings.

Makes 6 servings

Scrambled Eggs

“Kids will want to be right there in front,” Obenhaus says about scrambling eggs. The biggest mistake she sees most home cooks make with egg preparation is related to temperature. “They put the pan on the stove and turn on the heat and walk away from it, and then the pan gets too hot,” she says. Apply medium heat and only turn the heat on about a minute before you’re ready to scramble.

She recommends whisking the eggs first, using a slightly oversized bowl to allow freedom of movement. “Add as much air as possible in a bigger bowl so it can swirl and aerate. If you’re not allergic to dairy, add a little milk or cream to the eggs. It stretches them some and helps it to be fluffy,” she says.

Recipe from Love in Lemons

3 eggs
1 teaspoon milk (or water)
1 tablespoon butter
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon chives

Crack eggs into a medium bowl and add milk or water. Whisk until smooth and combined, with no streaks of egg white remaining. Brush a small, nonstick skillet with olive oil, or melt a little butter. Bring to medium heat. Pour in eggs, and let cook for a few seconds without stirring. Pull a rubber spatula across the bottom of the pan to form large, soft curds of scrambled eggs. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, folding and stirring eggs every few seconds. Scrape spatula along the bottom and sides of pan often to form more curds and prevent any part of the eggs from drying out. Remove pan from heat when eggs are mostly set, but a little liquid egg remains. Season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped fresh chives, if desired.

Makes 2 servings

Candy Cane Smoothie

Sophomore Archer Dickerson, a homeschool student who attends AmTech, chose this recipe not just because he thought younger kids could follow the directions, but because the crushed candy canes gave it a festive appearance. “It needs to be simple yet it also needs to look fun,” he says. Another 10th grader, Chance Hall of Amarillo High School, adds that he thinks the words “candy-cane smoothie” alone will get kids interested. 

“It’s candy,” he says.

Obenhaus suggests letting young children slice the bananas the day before. “It’s really easy to cut through a banana with a plastic knife,” she says. Then make sure to freeze the banana slices.

The strawberries in this recipe are a replacement for dragon fruit, simply because Obenhaus worried about the availability of dragon fruit in local grocery stores this late in the season. But if you can use dragon fruit, by all means do it. “It’s fun for kids,” she says. “They might be more willing to try it or take a bite because it’s named after a dragon.” 

Archer Dickerson
Recipe from World of Vegan, Gina House

2 bananas, sliced and frozen
1 ½ cups milk
1 to 2 tablespoons agave nectar or sweetener of choice
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
3 strawberries, sliced and frozen
1 to 2 peppermint candy canes

Add one of the candy canes to a plastic bag and seal well. Use a rolling pin or heavy pan to  crush the candy cane into very small pieces. Put it to the side for later. Add frozen bananas, strawberries, milk, extracts and sweetener into a blender. Blend for one minute or until smooth. Pour finished smoothie into one large or two small glasses or Mason jars. Sprinkle the tops with crushed candy canes or add whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 2 (8-ounce) servings

Ages 8 to 10

Glazed Lemon-Blueberry Scones

“When it says ‘chill the dough’ in the recipe, that’s one of those instructions you really can’t skip. If they’re chilled, it’s just going to turn out better,” says Obenhaus. The floured surface is also important for working with the dough.

As a supplement to this recipe, Obenhaus suggests cutting and pulling apart the dough after placing it on the parchment paper—not before. “So many times I’ve seen students have it ready and cut the dough, then try to pick [the triangle] up to transfer to the paper and it falls apart,” she says. Start on the paper, then transfer the entire paper of unbaked scones onto the baking mat or baking sheet.

Recipe from Ahead of Thyme, Sam Hu

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder, divided
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1 cup fresh blueberries
1⁄2 cup buttermilk
1⁄2 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream, divided
1 egg, beaten
1⁄2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Juice from 1 lemon

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add butter and, using hands or a pastry cutter, cut butter into flour until the size of peas, working quickly so butter stays cold. Carefully fold in blueberries so they don’t burst. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk and 1⁄2 cup heavy cream. Make a well in the center of flour mixture, then pour in liquid mixture. Use a rubber spatula to carefully fold ingredients until liquid is just incorporated.

Roll dough out onto a lightly floured surface, adding more flour as needed if too sticky to work with. Press down into a small rectangle, about 6- by 8-inches. Cut dough in half once horizontally and twice vertically to create 6 equal rectangles. Slice each rectangle in half diagonally to form 12 triangle-shaped scones. Carefully transfer scones to a large half-sheet baking pan lined with a silpat baking mat or parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Brush tops of scones with egg wash, then bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until scones are lightly golden brown. Let cool 5 minutes in a pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

While scones are cooling, combine confectioners’ sugar and half the lemon juice in a small bowl. Whisk until combined, adding more lemon juice as needed to reach desired consistency. When scones are cool, drizzle lemon glaze on top.

Makes 1 dozen scones

Non-Alcoholic Eggnog

Eggnog is one of those holiday-specific beverages that’s easy to purchase pre-made. But the homemade eggnog from scratch is far superior, says Sebastian Quinoñes, a senior homeschooler. “I grew up drinking this eggnog at home,” he says. “I always thought it had a creamy, sweet taste and kids would love to make it and sip on it.” Plus, he adds, every kid loves creating an eggnog mustache.

This version is thick, smooth, and sweet enough for kids to appreciate it. For the adult version—which uses high-alcohol content to balance the sweetness—consider adding rum, bourbon or brandy as a final step.

Sebastian Quiñones
Recipe from Ahead of Thyme, Sam Hu

2 cups heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg
3 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
4 egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup whipped cream
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a medium saucepan, combine milk and vanilla. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until bubbles form around sides and milk starts steaming. In another mixing bowl, vigorously beat together eggs, yolks, sugar, and salt for approximately 3 to 5 minutes, until the mixture is thickened and pale. Add milk in a slow stream and whisk to incorporate. Pour mixture back into saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 6 minutes, or until mixture reaches 165 degrees, as read on a cooking thermometer. Immediately strain into the mixing bowl with heavy cream. Place in refrigerator uncovered and allow eggnog to cool completely for at least 2 hours. When chilled, pour eggnog into glasses filling only three-fourths of the glass. Top with whipped cream, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg. You can get creative with spices: try almond extract, cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or allspice. Store leftover eggnog in a sealed, airtight container or Mason jar in the refrigerator. Homemade eggnog can last for up to a month in the fridge, depending on the expiration dates on the milk and cream used. Go by the earliest expiration date when determining how long to store it.

Makes 5 servings

Ages 11 and Older

Perfect Omelet

Omelets are a great way to plan a unique, no-fuss holiday breakfast while involving all family members, Obenhaus explains. Thanks to the toppings, “we all get to choose what we want.” She suggests chopping up all the ingredients the night before, then having family members select their ingredients—ham, bacon, or sausage plus a variety of vegetables—and combine them into a small zip-close plastic bag for each person. “Then, cooking it the next morning is literally just dumping the bag into the eggs,” she says.

For a well-made omelet, always use a good non-stick pan and a rubber spatula over medium heat.

Recipe from Sweet as Honey, Carine Claudipierre

2 large eggs, beaten
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
⅓ cup grated cheese
¼ cup ham
Chopped veggies of choice

Crack eggs in a bowl, and using a fork, beat eggs with salt, pepper and garlic powder, if used. Set aside. Heat a nonstick, 10-inch skillet over medium heat and warm butter and olive oil. When hot, tilt pan to spread fat evenly on its surface. Reduce to medium heat and add beaten eggs to pan, tilting pan to spread egg mixture all over the  surface. Cook the omelet for 2 to 3 minutes, or until sides of the egg mixture start to dry. At this time, use a silicone spatula to lift a side and let the uncooked eggs from the middle of the omelet run under. Keep cooking until the center is almost set, then sprinkle half the grated cheese, ham, and remaining vegetables on top of omelet. Fold in half and keep cooking until cheese is melted. Serve with fresh chopped parsley and cherry tomatoes. Slide the omelet on a plate and add more salt and pepper if desired.

Makes 1 omelet

Easy Cinnamon Rolls

“I always liked waking up to fresh-baked cinnamon rolls,” says Makinze Gutierrez. These will do the trick, and the various ingredients provide another opportunity for a team approach to baking.

“My granddaughters like to help me [in the kitchen],” says Obenhaus. While the details of this recipe are more appropriate for older kids, measuring is a great way for even the tiniest hands to get involved. “If they’re scooping flour or sugar, let them scoop out of the canister,” she says. Younger children might not be too precise, but someone older can always help level off the measuring cup or spoon above a separate bowl. 

Recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction, Sally McKenny

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup whole milk
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ¼ teaspoons Platinum or instant yeast
1 large egg
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
4 ounces cream cheese
⅔ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the dough: Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Combine milk and butter together in a heatproof bowl. Microwave or use the stove and heat until butter has melted and mixture is warm to the touch (about 110 degrees, no higher). Whisk in yeast until dissolved. Pour mixture into dry ingredients, add egg, and stir with a sturdy rubber spatula or wooden spoon OR use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on medium speed. Mix until a soft dough forms.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, knead dough for 3 to 5 minutes. You should have a smooth ball of dough. If dough is too soft or sticky, add a little more flour. Place in a lightly greased bowl (I use non-stick spray), cover loosely, and let dough rest for about 10 minutes as you prepare filling ingredients.

Fill rolls: After 10 minutes, roll dough out in a 14- by 8-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter on top. Mix together cinnamon and brown sugar. Sprinkle over butter. Roll dough to make a 14-inch log. Cut into 10 to 12 even slices and arrange in a lightly greased 9- or 10-inch round cake pan, pie dish, or square baking pan.

Let rise: Cover pan with aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or a clean kitchen towel. Allow rolls to rise in a relatively warm environment for 60 to 90 minutes, or until doubled in size. 

After rolls have doubled in size, heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 24 to 27 minutes, or until lightly browned. If tops are getting brown too quickly, loosely tent the pan with aluminum foil and continue baking. Bake until the internal temperature taken with an instant read thermometer is around 195 to 200 degrees. Remove pan from oven and place on a wire rack as you make the icing. (You can also make the icing as the rolls bake.)

In a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat cream cheese on high speed until smooth and creamy. Add butter and beat until smooth and combined, then beat in powdered sugar and vanilla until combined. Using a knife or icing spatula, spread icing over warm rolls and serve immediately. Cover leftover frosted or unfrosted rolls tightly and store at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Makes 10 to 12 rolls