Thyme for Kids - a family, food, and franchising blog
Thyme for Kids - a family, food, and franchising blog
Into food, family, or franchising? You're in the right place. The recipe for blogging here at YCA is to keep it simple, entertaining, educational, and to the point. We take one simple concept and give you our unique perspective.
From our franchisees, our students, or our corporate staff - if you hear it here, you know it's all us, all original and all fresh. We might tell you the story of a bright young chef who taught his instructor a few things, then next maybe the latest culinary trend (beef tongue sliders?). There is nothing ordinary about any of our franchises, and we delight in sharing the extraordinary "scoop"! Enjoy, comment, and please share.
12:44 PM

Oh, the Pasta-bilities!


Bored with plain old spaghetti??   You could just choose from one of the 600 different shapes of pasta produced worldwide to change things up a bit...


...create a FUN, and colorful pasta dish that will dazzle even your pickiest of eaters!

All you need is your choice of pasta or spaghetti, a selection of food coloring, and large zip lock bags.  So easy and fun, your entire family can have fun with it! 

Ready, Set, Let's Go!!

Noodle1_crop First, gather your noodles, food coloring and a zipper baggie for each color.
Boil your noodles according to package directions until al dente (cooked, but firm).  While you wait on your pasta to cook, add approx. 20 drops of food coloring and two tablespoons of water to each bag. Noodle3crop
Noodle4 Drain and rinse cooked pasta with cold water.  This stops the cooking process.
Add a portion of the cooked spaghetti to each bag and mix well.  Let sit for at least a minute...otherwise, you may end up with gray spaghetti when you rinse! 

Drain each bag of pasta separately with cold water and add back to the pot.  Toss together for a colorful pasta dish!

Then serve with your choice of sauce and toppings (don’t forget to add a veggie!)!  If you want to use a sauce that will allow the colored pasta to be the star of your plate, toss with a simple garlic herb butter sauce and sprinkle with a dash of Parmesan! 

Pas-ta Spaghetti this way!

Pasta Fun Facts:
  • Uncooked pasta can be kept for up to a year while cooked pasta can be kept frozen for up to 3 months!
  • Pasta was originally eaten plain...and with your hands!
  • Over 60 pounds of pasta is eaten by Italians per person per year!  Wow! 
  • Spaghetti with Meatballs is actually an American invention.  Immigrants from Italy found meat much more plentiful in America and began to add this to their
  • October is National Pasta Month...that's right...ALL month!

8:46 AM

Oktoberfest Strudel in die Küche!


Now that Autumn is officially here and Oktoberfest is in full swing across the country, we got the hankerin' for some rich and robust German food.  Since we couldn't travel to Munich for the real thing, we thought "Why not bring a little of the Bavarian festivities to us?"  Right?

Traditionally, the largest meal in Germany is shared during Mittagessen (lunch).  However, dining preferences have changed over the years where more families may choose to wait until Abendbrot (dinner/evening meal) for their heartier meal.  What ever you choose, the recipes were going to be making will disappear fast so watch out!

We decided to pull out one of our "oldies-but-goodies" recipes…the savory, flaky Oktoberfest Strudel paired with a crisp and tangy German Cucumber Salad.  Our mouth is watering just thinking of it.

Humm...come to think of it, wonder if we should have thought to make a sweet version too, you know, for test purposes only, of course.  ; )  Enough with the regrets, let's get cooking!


After removing the sausage from the casing, be sure to break up the meat so that it's easy to spread out when you're adding the filling to your strudel.

  IMG_7842_crop    IMG_7846_crop

TIP:  Be sure to add butter all the way to the edges of the sheet.  If your ends appear dried out and difficult to tuck in, dip your fingers in a little bit of water to moisten the ends.  Then tuck away!

All that's left is to put on those Lederhosen's and Dirndl's, grab some friends and host your own Oktoberfest celebration!

Guten Appetite!


Oktoberfest Strudel with Mustard Sauce


For the Strudel:
  • 1 lb. bratwurst
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2/3 cup onion, minced
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 cup sauerkraut, drained
  • 1 tsp. caraway seed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 16 phyllo sheets, thawed
  • 1/4 cup prepared mustard

For the Mustard Sauce:

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
  • 1 tsp. paprika


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Remove the bratwurst meat from the outer casing and place into a pan.  Brown the meat, breaking it up into small bits.  Drain fat and set aside.
  3. Melt 1-1/2 Tbsp. butter over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for for 3 minutes.
  4. Add apple and saute for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in sauerkraut and caraway seeds; mix well.
  5. Melt remaining butter.  On a large baking sheet, lay out one sheet of phyllo and brush with melted butter.  Repeat to make 8 layers, spreading 2 Tbsp. mustard over last layer of phyllo
  6. Spread half of the sauerkraut filling over the dough leaving a 1-inch border around the edges.  Top sauerkraut with half of the bratwurst, roll up like a jellyroll, starting with the short sides.  Place seam-side down on pan; brush tops with butter and tuck in ends.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 to make another strudel.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. While strudel is baking, prepare mustard sauce.  In a saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Stir in flour to form a smooth paste, or roux.
  9. Slowly stir in cream and continue stirring to keep lumps from forming.  Whisk in mustard and heat through.  Slice warm strudel and serve in a pool of mustard sauce.  Sprinkle with paprika.

Yield:  Makes 2 strudels with 6 slices each or (3 large slices each)

German Cucumber Salad

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 small cucumbers, sliced
  • 1 large greenhouse tomato, sliced and chopped
  • 4 slices of red onion, thinly sliced and cut in half
  • 2-4 tsp. lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp. fresh dill, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste

  1. In a bowl, combine the sour cream, 2 tsp. lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper.  Taste and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper based on your preference.
  2. Add cucumber, tomato and onion into the bowl and stir until the vegetables are well coated.

Yield:  approximately 4 side servings

8:02 AM

"Pas-ta" Salad This Way! (Excuse the pasta pun....)


Hair pulled back....check!
Hands washed...check!
Mise en place....check!

It's time to get started.  The test kitchen at our corporate headquarters is one of our favorite places to be.  We get the opportunity to test recipes that are created by our talented chefs with a roomful of our best critics, our young chefs.

And since it's still considered the season for outdoor activities, such as picnics and pool parties (yes, you can still do those things even with school is back in session!), we pulled a recipe from the past that was already "to-die-for" and made it extraordinary.  The simplicity of this recipe also lends itself beautifully to a home-cooked dinner during our hectic, back-to-school schedules.  Simply add a piece of grilled French bread, and you have a tasty & nourishing meal!

Now, you might say..."It's just pasta salad...what's so great about that?"

And we would say, "Just wait....just'll get it when you taste it and realize how quick your family can pull this delicious concoction together!"  If you split up the tasks among family members, you could have this together in no time flat!

We also LOVE a striking plate so we added a spectrum of color to this dish:  garden pasta, a variety of grape tomatoes, two different sweet bell peppers and olives.  The capers add even more contrast as well as a hint of salty flavor that compliments the sweetness of the tomatoes and peppers.  Hindsight being 20/20, we probably should have added a few leeks to this recipe to give it even more of a kick but that will have to wait for next time....until then...  : )

We'd love to see your pasta pics!  Share yours on our Instagram @youngchefsacademy !!


Incredible Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Rating:  Two thumbs up from our test kitchen "young chefs!"


  • 1 (16 oz) package fusilli or rotini pasta
  • 1/2 pound provolone cheese, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1/4 pound sliced pepperoni, cut into halves
  • 1/2 pound salami, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 2 large bell peppers (red, yellow and/or orange), cubed
  • 3 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 (4 oz) jar pimentos, drained and chopped
  • 1 (10 oz) can black olives, drained
  • 1 (4.5 oz) non-pareil capers
  • 9-10 oz of Champagne dressing *

  1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. 
  2. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente or just slightly underdone.
  3. In a large bowl, combine pasta with tomatoes, cheese salami, pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, pimentos and capers.  Pour in salad dressing and toss to coat.
  4. Serve right away or refrigerate and toss before serving.
Yield:  approximately 10 servings

* We tested this recipe using Girard's Champagne Dressing vs. the traditional Italian or vinaigrette. 

Tips for making pasta salad:

  • It's important to cook your pasta until al dente (cooked, but firm to the bite...not mushy).  The trick is to ensure your pasta is not cooked too long it will absorb some of the dressing and could lead to mushy pasta.
  • This recipe makes quite a bit!  Half the recipe for a smaller batch that will easily feed a family of four!
  • If testing your own pasta creation, be sure to use pastas that will easily trap the dressing for maximum flavor in each bite.  Think "short and small" when choosing your noodles.
  • Add even more veggies to your pasta salad, such as asparagus, broccoli, and carrots.  Saute, roast or blanch your veggies you don't want raw and then toss into ice cold water to stop the cooking process and allow them to remain crisp. 
  • Don't cut your pieces too small as it's hard to get a little of everything in each'll  end up chasing what you want around on your plate!

7:33 AM

Happy "NationalCherryPopoverDay !!


We love food holidays and today is National Cherry Popover Day!  Popovers are a light and airy roll that can be very versatile as a dinner roll or a luscious delight. 

Our young chefs chose a sweet version using a muffin tin pan (vs. a pop-over pan) to produce popovers that would provide a larger pocket and shorter base to fill with a sweet filling vs. a dinner roll.

Let's start making the batter! 

Just so you know, there's nothing wrong with your batter!  Popover batter has a thin consistency, similar to that of a crepe batter.  Some of the liquid evaporates during baking, creating steam that puffs the batter until it "pops" over the tins.  The proteins from the egg causes the batter to stretch and hold the steam. 

Once you get that mixed, it's time to let it rest while we work on the filling!

Popover closeup

We chose a cherry filling...well, it is National Cherry Turnover Day, right?   And here's where the fun comes in...

Pitting cherries but you don't have a cherry pitter?  If you have a straw, that's all you need!  We used a slightly larger straw but a smaller straw will result in less of the flesh of the cherry being wasted in the process.  Young chefs use this technique to reduce the amount of time they need to spend on that activity and get to the end result...heavenly tasty popovers!

CherryPopover5      CherryPopover4

After your batter has rested and your cherries are coated in sugar, it's time to "pop" the popovers into the oven!  Be sure not to open up the oven during the initial bake time!  Opening the oven can cause great fluctuations of the oven temperature causing your popover to fall or deflate.  We want fluffy, airy rolls! 

CherryPopover3  CherryPopover2

That's all there is to it!  Deeelicious.....

The recipe below is an easy and delicious way to make beautiful, delicious rolls or dessert in a short amount of time. 


Popovers with Fresh Cherries and glaze


2 eggs at room temperature
1 cup milk at room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. canola oil
2 cups fresh, ripe cherries
2 Tbsp. (or to taste) sugar to coat the halved cherries


  1. Crack eggs into a mixing bowl.  Add milk and whisk.  Slowly add flour and salt and continue whisking until mixed together.  Add melted butter and mix again until smooth.  You're batter will have a thin, fairly smooth consistency.  Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
  2. While the oven preheats to 450°F, pour a quarter teaspoon of oil into the 6 muffin tins and use a pastry brush to spread the oil up the sides of each cup.  Set the oiled tin on a baking sheet and place into the warming oven. 
  3. While the batter is resting, pit and halve the cherries.  Place into a bowl and sprinkle with sugar, coating all sides.  Gently mash the cherries and stir occasionally.  
  4. When the batter is done resting, remove the hot muffin tin pan from the oven and quickly pour in the batter.  Fill the cups about 3/4 of the way full.  Place the pan back in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  At this time, lower the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  TIP:  Don't open the door until you're getting close to the baking time as it could result in fallen popovers!
  5. Tear open or fill each popover by spooning the cherries inside.  Dust with a little powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Popover TIPS:
  • Popover batter has a thinner, crepe-like or heavy whipping cream consistency.  Some of the liquid evaporated during baking, creating steam that puffs the batter until it "pops" over the tins.  The proteins from the egg causes the batter to stretch and hold the steam. 
  • Warming the popover pan or muffin tins in the oven during the preheating stage provides the best results.
  • Running low on time?  Warm milk in the microwave to roughly 125 degrees before mixing with the eggs and flour.  The warmer batter helps get the popovers cooking right away and makes for larger, taller popovers.
  • If you prefer, you can spray the popover pans vigorously with cooking spray right before pouring the batter into the cups.
  • Mix batter only until lumps are gone!  Do not overmix!
  • Start with a higher oven temperature (450°F) and turn down after fifteen minutes.
  • NEVER open the oven during the baking process as your popovers can deflate!
  • Serve immediately.

3:52 PM

Inspire a New Generation of Chefs

YCA_families logo

Picture this Scenario
(cue the thought bubble above your head)...

You have a recipe, a five-year old who wants to help, a teenager screaming for takeout and a short schedule to get dinner on the table.  Most of us have been there, right?  It’s so easy to just find something to keep your younger child busy as you dig for that pizza coupon you saw in the “junk” drawer of the kitchen. 

It’s not your fault and you’re not alone!

Busy schedules, different tastes and the need to keep it simple are as much a part of our world today as is eating and sleeping.   The difficulty with this is many are not taking part in the multitude of benefits offered through introducing the art of cooking to the whole family.   

Let’s take a look at some of these benefits:

 mcallen tx

Creative Empowerment and Increased Self-Esteem

The art of cooking not only provides an avenue for children and teens to continue to grow and expand their creativity, but to increase their self-esteem during the process. 

An outlook for a child who knows how to cook encourages them to think outside of the box using their creativity and knowledge.  Seeing a countertop full of ingredients come alive and develop into a finished product is a truly rewarding experience.  It doesn’t have to be pretty all of the time, but THEY did it.   Even with the help of other family members, they were involved in crafting a “masterpiece”….from start to finish.

Appreciation for the cooking process …

Let’s say you’re pressed for time and want your family to eat a home-cooked meal.  Which would you rather have on your side:  stressing over how you’ll cook a true home-cooked meal on your own in time OR have your family, especially your children, ready to lend a creative hand?  We prefer to lean towards the kids….otherwise, most of us would throw in the towel and reach for that frozen pizza you keep on hand for just these occasions.  Don’t do it!  When your children understand what it takes to place a meal on a table, they may be more likely to help out.


Family Cooking =  Stronger Family…

We all know that studies have shown how family mealtimes are linked to positive effects on childhood development, such as:  better grades and a lower risk of obesity and eating disorders.  But there are also additional benefits that make a family stronger when making the family meals a priority.

  • Constructing better communication as a family
  • Creating family traditions that provides a positive model for your children as they grown into adulthood
  • Home cooking provides your family with healthier and nutritious options

When you add the culinary process to family meals, you're building a strong bond and lasting memories that will stay with your children for a lifetime.  Not to mention developing basic cognitive skills such as math, reading, science along the way without even realizing it!

Increased Food Experimentation…

Here’s a little secret to help expand your child’s palate ~ getting them involved in the process.  Something magical happens when kids get involved.  Struggling to get your children to explore new foods becomes a thing of the past.  Well, not ALL of the time.  Even the most famous of chefs have an ingredient or two that they may prepare but absolutely will not eat.  But they were open to new tastes when they began and cultivated new food favorites that they may not have if not given the opportunity to grow in the culinary arts.  The same goes for children as they grow in their experiences with new foods during the process.

Cooking Lasts a Lifetime….

Cooking is a skill that will last a lifetime.  Everyone needs to eat, right?  A child who has been given the opportunity to experiment and develop their culinary skills early on in life will allow them to utilize this throughout their adult lives.

Don't have the patience or time?

We understand!  In today's time, we're strapped tight with work and children's activities. 

Based on conversations we have had with busy parents of our young chefs are that there are several factors that might affect parent’s ability to teach their children/teens to cook:

  • Time
  • Knowledge
  • Patience

But what if we had a solution to help simplify the process?

You guessed it...Cooking classes that will introduce your children to the culinary arts!  Our Young Chefs members are exposed to a variety of skills, ingredients, and techniques that may be a difficult and daunting task at home for busy families.  Some recipes call for an intimidating list of ingredients, many rarely used again or not at all.   We take the approach that introducing children to new ingredients allows them to expand their palate and experience the various tastes and smells available and how you would incorporate these into other dishes. 

Every single day during our Chefs Club Membership Program, we see our Young Chefs enter our kitchens with smiles and an eagerness to learn about a new cuisine, skill, technique or taste.  Parents are blown-away when their child participates in the entire process and eagerly consume a particular ingredient they have never been able to get them to try in the past.

What are the benefits of joining the YCA Chefs Club Membership Program? 

Just to name a few.....


  • Takes the stress from teaching at home during the busy week
  • Learning how to cook amongst a group setting alongside their peers
  • Team building activities built in to increase self-esteem as students work together towards a common goal
  • No computers to hide behind!
  • Reinforcement of skills, techniques and kitchen safety
  • Expansive range of new ingredients and recipes introduced every week which allows creativity to flow and exploration of new cuisines
  • Members receive discounts on products and services and are automatically enrolled in the exclusive MasterChef program
  • Taking what they learn and applying this at home for family mealtime!

Young Chefs Academy provides the outlet to help your child develop their culinary abilities in a welcoming environment.  Students take home what they've learned and continue to build upon their knowledge each week, allowing them to become immersed in the process.

But selfishly for us, it’s about even more than teaching our students how to cook….it’s the smiles, laughter and surprises that happen every day.  

Whether you teach your children at home yourself or utilize the services of a cooking school designed with your child in mind, the benefits outweigh everything else.

IMG_0009 (2)

Keep On Cooking, Young Chefs!  Keep On Cooking...

Visit to find a location near you or to find out how you bring the joy and value of cooking to your community by becoming a Young Chefs Academy Franchise Owner !

4:23 PM

Bacon & Chocolate Lovers, UNITE!


You know, most of us just can't pass up the ooey, gooey-ness of the classic chocolate chip cookie.'re walking into the house and you get hit with that sweet, chocolatey aroma that just jolts you in the direction of the kitchen.  As that batch of cookies are pulled, fresh from the oven, your mouth starts to water and your taste buds start to tingle.

Well, it's kind of the same sensation when you smell bacon, right?  It's just hitting the savory side of your buds.

Have we got a treat for all you bacon-chocoholics!!  We've fused both of these undeniable flavors together to create a sweet and savory delicacy you just cannot refuse ~ The Bacon-Chocolate Chip Cookie. 

Let's Go Bake Up Some Fun!


Bacon-Chocolate Chip Cookies
A Young Chefs® Academy Recipe


1/2 lb. smoked bacon, thick cut
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F.  Line 2-3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. Slice the bacon into 1-inch pieces.  Place the bacon in a cold cast iron skillet and set over medium heat.  Once the bacon sizzles, begin to stir until the bacon is crisp and golden brown.  Remove from the pan and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.  Chop when cool.
  3. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together and set aside.
  4. In the bowl from the stand mixer, cream together the melted butter and all sugars until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla, egg and egg yolk until light and creamy.
  5. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips and chopped bacon by hand using a wooden spoon.
  6. Drop cookie dough 1 tablespoon at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets.  Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
  7. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted.  Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield:  about 4-5 dozen cookies

12:12 AM

To Grill or Not To Grill?....We're Grilling!

We just couldn't help it....we had to share another delicious recipe for this star-spangled holiday.

The Fourth of July is a great time for celebrating our independence with family, friends and guessed it...great food!  It's time to fire up the grill for a good 'ol American burger with a twist ~ Bacon Burgers with Grilled Peaches. 


Happy Fourth of July!

Grilling for the 4th_copy

Bacon Burger with Grilled Peaches

A Young Chefs® Academy Recipe


1 ½ lb. ground beef 80/20*
1-2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Tabasco
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 slices of thick cut bacon, cooked
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

4 oz. goat cheese
2 peaches or nectarines, sliced

3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 dash salt
8 oz. spinach, washed and dried
6 buns
Avocado, sliced (optional)


Mixing bowls
Measuring cups/spoons
Clean hands
Large skillet
Grill or grill pan
Plate lined with paper towels
Cutting board


1.   In a large mixing bowl, add the ground beef, Worcestershire and Tabasco. Mix together using your clean hands. Then divide the meat into 6 equal portions. Shape into patties, place on a plate, cover, and refrigerate. Wait to season with salt and pepper until right before cooking.

2.   In a large skillet, add the bacon and set the pan over medium heat. Cook the bacon until crisp. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining bacon. Set the bacon aside to cool. Transfer the bacon fat to a heat proof bowl and reserve.

3.   Add the onions to the skillet and set over medium-low heat and sauté until the onions are caramelized, stirring often, about 20 minutes. Set aside.

4.  Preheat the grill or grill pan. Allow the grill to get hot and then brush the grates with oil.

5.   Remove the burgers from the refrigerator and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place the patties on the grill and cook for 2-3 minutes, then rotate the burger and cook another 2-3 minutes. Flip the burger and repeat. Remove the burger and keep warm in a low oven until they have all been cooked.

6.   Place the peaches on the grill; cook for 4-5 minutes per side until they begin to soften and caramelize. Remove and set aside.

7.   In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat, vinegar, sugar, Dijon and salt. Pour this over the spinach and toss to coat all of the leaves.

8.  Toast the buns, if desired. To assemble the burger, spread the goat cheese on the bottom bun, top with a burger and a piece of bacon broken into 2 pieces. Add the spinach and top with grilled onions, avocado, and peaches. Spread mayonnaise on the top half of each bun and close the sandwich. Slice in half and serve immediately.

 Yield: about 6 burgers

Why use 80/20 meat for grilling?

When buying ground beef, did you know you have choices? What are those choices? Basically it is the ratio of the amount of fat to the amount of beef in the ground meat.

Of course, the different kinds of meat have different purposes. There is:

o   Ground Beef - 73% Lean, 27% Fat

o   Ground Chuck - 80% Lean, 20% Fat

o   Ground Sirloin - 85% Lean, 15% Fat

o   Ground Round - 90% Lean, 10 % Fat

-  What you are cooking will determine which type of beef you need to use. We prefer ground chuck for hamburgers because it is fattier, and this helps hold the burgers together.  Ground round can fall apart on the grill because it's low in fat content and won’t hold together.

-  You can also use a combination of ground chuck and ground round, which holds together well but also reduces some of the fat content per burger.

-   The fattier meat will also help to make your burgers juicier.

-  Use ground round or ground sirloin when browning meat for casseroles or tacos because you won’t lose so much weight due to the fat being drained off.

3:04 PM

Summertime Tacos just in time for the 4th!

Don't you just love all of the fresh, cool ingredients of summer dishes? 

Our Young Chefs students went to work this past month making a variety of dishes from the International Kitchen to Cupcake Insanity, but one of the favorites was a delicious mix of refreshing & delectable ingredients that just screams "SUMMER!" during our Summertime Favorites Camp ~ Fish Tacos with delicious Watermelon & Pineapple Salsa. 

This recipe packs a cool, sweet crunch with each bite.... Fish tacos are a savory dish "must" in the summer because fish are readily available.

Be sure to check out some of the YCA tips from the Test Kitchens at the end of the recipe!


Fish Tacos with Watermelon and Pineapple Salsa

A Young Chefs® Academy Recipe


2 cups watermelon, small dice
2 cups pineapple, small dice
½ cup red onion, small dice
3 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
½ - 1 jalapeno pepper, ribs, seeds removed and small dice
¼ cup lime juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Tabasco sauce, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste
1 romaine lettuce heart, thinly sliced

1 lb. flounder or any firm white-fleshed fish
½ cup milk

½ cup flour, preferably Wondra or other fine-milled flour
1 ½ tsp chili powder
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground

¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing pan
Pat of butter

12 (6-inch) fresh corn tortillas
Queso fresco or Monterrey jack cheese, to garnish
1 avocado, sliced
1 lime, sliced


Large mixing bowls
Cutting board
Shallow bowls
Sheet pan lined with a wire rack
Large skillet
Cast iron skillet
Warm, clean kitchen towel
Plate lined with paper towels


1.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the watermelon, pineapple, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, lime and olive oil. Toss to blend all of the flavors. Cover and refrigerate.

2. Slice the lettuce into thin strips. Cover and refrigerate.

3.  Cut the fish into strips, about ½-inch wide and about 3 inches long. Cut the fish across the grain. Pour the milk into another medium bowl, and place the fish into it.

4.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, chili powder, salt and pepper.

5.  Remove the fish pieces from the milk bath and dredge them lightly through the flour mixture, shaking to remove excess. Place the coated fish on a sheet pan lined with a wire rack. Transfer the fish to the freezer for 15-30 minutes.

6.   Pour the vegetable oil into a 12-inch skillet and place over medium-high heat until it shimmers and is about to smoke. Add the butter to the pan. Place some fish pieces in the oil, without crowding them, and cook until deep golden brown on one side, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn carefully and cook for 1 minute more.

7.  Remove to a warmed plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the remaining fish. Keep warm.

8.   Meanwhile, lightly grease a skillet with a drizzle of oil and set over medium heat. Heat the tortillas, one or two at a time, until they are soft and hot. Keep them warm, wrapped in a clean dish towel.

9.   When ready to serve the fish tacos, remove the watermelon salsa and lettuce from the refrigerator. Drain any excess juice from the watermelon salsa and toss the juice with the lettuce.

10. Taste the salsa and adjust the seasonings. Toss the lettuce with the fruit juices to coat.

11. To assemble the taco, take a warm tortilla, line with lettuce, top with 1-2 pieces of fish, sprinkle the salsa on top along with some queso fresco, sliced avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve while still hot.

Yield: about 12 tacos

TIPs from the Test Kitchen:

Why freeze the fish before frying?

-  Once you have breaded the fish, shouldn’t it be ready to fry? It can be fried then, but it’s best to wait a few minutes.   The resting gives the coating time to really adhere to the fish, which means it won’t come off or stick to the pan while cooking. It just provides a little extra insurance that your fish will turn out crispy, golden brown, and delicious. Isn’t that what we want?

-  You can apply this technique to anything that is breaded and fried. Let it rest, either on the counter or in the freezer for up to 30 minutes. Watch what happens while it is resting. The flour becomes less visible and becomes absorbed by the liquid, which results in a super crispy crust, which is so worth the wait.

How do you keep your fish warm but not soggy?

-   pan fried fish will keep in the oven on a low temp (200°F-250°F)

-   do not cover it – if you put foil over it the crisp coating on the outside can turn soggy

-   it will be fine for a little while – while you are warming the tortillas

Tortilla Tips:

-   Make sure you warm the tortillas on a grill or griddle

-   Corn tortillas are much different than flour and need to be warmed on the stove top before eating

-   They will fall apart and make a mess if warmed in the microwave

-   They are made with corn and no flour so they don’t have the elasticity of the gluten from the flour

12:43 PM

I'm parched!

It's warming up outside which means we will need to quench our thirst more often.  What comes to mind when you think of the absolute best summertime drink? 

Hot Cocoa?  Delicious, but may not have that cooling effect you're needing. 

Water?  That's an excellent choice to keep our bodies hydrated, but what if you're wanting something with a little more pizzazz? 

We have just the thing that will not only satisfy your thirst but will tantalize your taste buds.....good 'ol lemonade!

A "favorite" of our young chefs combines the sweet and tangy flavors of not just one, but two delicious fruity flavors making this drink one you will want to keep on hand!  The simplicity of the ingredients in our YCA Strawberry Lemonade also makes this a wonderful addition to young entrepreneurs setting up a lemonade stand this Summer! 


Young Chefs Academy Strawberry Lemonade


¾ cup lemon juice
3 cups water
5 oz. frozen strawberries, pureed
Up to 1 cup sugar
Fresh strawberries and/or lemon slices for garnish


Measuring cups
Citrus reamer
Wooden spoon
Ice cubes


  1. Combine lemon juice, water, and ¾ of the strawberry puree in a pitcher. 
  2. Add sugar until you have reached the desired tartness/sweetness. 
  3. Add strawberry puree until the strawberry/lemon taste balance is about equal. 
  4. Garnish with fresh strawberries or lemon slices and serve over ice.  Makes 3 cups

Drink, Enjoy and Stay Cool!

8:36 PM

It's Easy As Pie to "Be A Good Cookie!"


Who doesn't just love a great bake sale?  Whether it's classes, camps or workshops at Young Chefs Academy, our students' eyes light up when they know they're going to be digging in and creating some type of sweet confection.  This month, we have been touched to witness another passion in our young chefs' hearts - helping other kids.

During the entire month of May, our Young Chefs Academy Chefs Club Members have been baking away for a great cause-Cookies for Kids' Cancer!  Each YCA location has been hosting bake sales to raise awareness and much needed funds for pediatric cancer research.  Young Chefs Academy has teamed up again with Cookies For Kids' Cancer, but this time all monies received during May will be matched dollar-for-dollar due to the generosity of a special donor!  That's double the reason to jump aboard this fun and worthy cause!

"It's very powerful to see when not only our YCA franchise owners enthusiastically jump in; but for our Young Chefs' kiddos to take ownership and forge the way for this cause that is near and dear to our hearts...well, it's just humbling and heartwarming," says Shelly Phipps, YCA Marketing Director.  If you want to be a part of this worthwhile movement happening across the country, there's still time to take part and "Be A Good Cookie!"  Visit our Bake Sale page at to view dates/times for upcoming bake sales or to simply donate.  Please come by and treat yourself to a cookie or two, all for a great cause!

Now, we have a special treat for you  -

You might recognize Emma & Hannah, our own in-house bake sale enthusiasts and the test kitchen young chefs, when they introduced earlier this month the Young Chefs Academy partnership with Cookies for Kids' Cancer (CLICK HERE for Bake Sale Video with Emma & Hannah).  Not only do they help out at our corporate headquarters testing recipes, but they have their own secret talent and passion.... pies!  They began perfecting and selling their own pies at an early age and agreed to share one of their favorites with you!


Emma & Hannah's Grated Apple Pie)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of salt
  • 4 cups peeled, grated apples
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional topping)
  • Refrigerated pie crust, pre-made

  • Pie Pan
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Grater
  • Safety knives
  • Spoon

1)  Preheat Oven to 400° F. 
2)  To form the pie crust:  Roll dough out slightly larger (about 1/2" thick) than your pie pan and then carefully set it into the pan, rolling the edges under and pinching to form the pie edge.  Using a fork, make several holes in the bottom of the crust to prevent bubbling during baking. 
3)  Mix all ingredients together (except for the pecans) and pour into crust.
4)  Sprinkle pecans over the top.
5)  Bake for 10 minutes at 400° F.
6)  Rotate the pan, then bake at 350° F for 50 minutes.
7)  Let cool and serve.

© 2017 Young Chefs Academy   |   Legal Franchise Disclaimer