Welcome to Week 3 of the Star-Telegram's summer Kids Cooking Club!
Each week for six weeks in the Thursday Your Life section, we'll present a different local chef working in the kitchen with kids, as well as the chef's recipes. The goal is to have kids cook their way through the recipes (with some parental guidance), take a few notes and shoot a photo or two, if you like. At the end of the summer, club members will receive an official certificate of completion.
This week, we're featuring recipes and ideas from Brian Olenjack whose restaurant, Olenjack's Grille, is a big hit in Arlington. Brian splits time in kitchens at his restaurant and at his Aledo home, where his three boys help on occasion.
Get your spatula ready, and enjoy this week's lesson.
Meet the chef
Executive chef and owner, Olenjack's Grille in Arlington
With assistance from his sons Aiden, 7; Gavin, 6; and Lydon, 4.
Mom Heather Olenjack says the boys spend most of their time in summer playing baseball and swimming, but that they love going to work with dad.
Brian and Heather say the boys are good eaters who are usually willing to try new foods.
Asked which foods they like best, each was quick to answer.
"Nachos!" said Aiden.
"Strawberries and apples," said Lydon, "'cause they're good for me."
"Shrimp!" said Gavin, who Brian says is his most adventurous eater and most likely to be a chef when he grows up.
The day we stopped by to see them make lunch together at the restaurant, the guys were obviously excited to be helping their dad make quesadillas. Brian lined up three flour tortillas and let the boys assemble the ingredients from assorted bowls mounded with toppings.
Unassisted, the boys tended to pile the toppings too thick. While grilling the shrimp in a pan, Brian kept one eye on the kids, monitoring the assembly process so that the quesadillas wouldn't be too unwieldy to grill.
Enthusiasm was running high. With every ingredient addition, choruses of "Yummy cheese!" and "Yummy cilantro!" accompanied the task.
When the shrimp was ready, the boys added that to the quesadillas, too. Then Brian put another tortilla on top and put the quesadillas in pans and grilled them simultaneously. (It's nice having a professional kitchen handy when feeding a big family, right?)
After Brian cut the quesadillas into wedges and garnished them with sour cream, the boys sat down to lunch. Quick, easy and filling -- perfect cooking for three growing boys.
Here's the recipe for Cooking Club kids to try at home.
Shrimp and smoked sausage quesadillas
1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped
8 flour tortillas
1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, chopped
4 green onions, sliced on the bias
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped roughly
1/2 pound smoked sausage, chopped roughly
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Sour cream for garnish
1. In a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, cook the shrimp until pink. Transfer to a small bowl.
2. Line up 4 flour tortillas and top with equal portions of shrimp, tomato, green onion, cilantro, sausage and cheese. Cover each with remaining tortillas.
3. Coat the same pan with cooking spray. Transfer one of the quesadillas to the pan and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes on the first side, then turn and cook another 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Repeat with remaining quesadillas, spraying pan as needed. Cut into wedges and garnish with sour cream.