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.
1:51 PM

"POP" In The New Year!


Cake Pops Pinterest

It's almost 2018....the Zodiac Year of the Earth Dog!  If you were born in the year 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, (or even about to be born in 2018), you share a common bond with some other famous "dogs," such as Mother Theresa, Winston Churchill, Madonna, Justin Bieber and Michael Jackson, just to name a few. 

But enough of that!  Let's move on to the FOOD!  Sadly, this is our last week of Bake The Season's Bright, however, we will still be sharing more incredible recipes throughout the upcoming year (sneak peek into's getting "Chili" outside).

With the New Year arriving in just a few days, we thought we'd let things sparkle and shine with Sparkling Cake Pops ~ our mock pink champagne cake pops.  These pops are so elegant, yet so enticing.  Using some colorful sprinkles to add a little glitz and glamor make these a "must" for your New Year's Eve gathering.

This recipe uses a non-alcoholic alternative but provides delicious results similar to using true Champagne.  The slightly sweet and bubbly concoction is also tasty by itself!  Just double or triple the recipe for a refreshing drink your guests can sip while savoring their personal cake pop.

Let's get POP-IN'!




cake pop 1 

Each week, we share special tips and tricks with our Young Chefs.  One of the big questions that arise is the need to start with room temperature ingredients. 

So why do some recipes call for room temperature ingredients? 

It's important that you start with room temperature butter and eggs as they will disperse much easier in your batter.  But if you're like many of us, we forget to factor in the extra hour to ensure they are at the right temperature.  Here's a few tips that can help when you're ready to bake but your butter and eggs aren't!

After eggs and butter and other dairy products have come to room temperature, they form an emulsion when they’re mixed. This emulsion traps air and makes your baked good nice and fluffy.  Also, ingredients at room temperature tend to mix more easily than when they’re cold, making a nice, even batter, which means your final product will have a uniform texture all the way through.

For quick, room temperature eggs:  Place eggs in a warm (not hot!) water bath for about 5 minutes.  This allows the temperature of the eggs to drop to room temperature.

For quick, room temperature butter:  Microwave a glass or ceramic bowl filled with water for a few minutes.  Pour out the water and place the warm bowl over the butter for a few minutes to bring to room temperature.  Or, microwave, with the wrapper intact, for 5 seconds.  Flip and repeat for the other three sides.


cake pop2 

It's important to freeze your cake balls before dipping in chocolate to allow them to firm up a bit to work with.  However, be sure to bring your frozen cake balls out of the freezer to warm up slightly.  Dipping very cold cake balls into very warm chocolate can result in cracks (we learned the hard way...). 

cake pop 5 

Dipping the lollipop stick into the chocolate first before pressing into the cake ball allows the chocolate to form around the portion where the stick is inserted.  This process makes it easier to finish dipping the rest of the cake ball with less messy results.

cake pop 6

And Voila!  Now all that's left is to invite friends over!

cake pop 3 

Our friend Taylor joined us after helping to make these little cuties. 

What are you waiting for?  Let's make 2018 Sparkle!!


cake pop 7

Pseudo Pink Champagne Cake Pops



3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
15 ounces (2 cups) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 x-large egg whites at room temperature
4 drops red food coloring
2 cups mock champagne


1/4 cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1¼ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons mock champagne
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 drop red food coloring

Mock Champagne:

1 quart (32 oz) cranberry juice
1 quart (32 oz) ginger ale
1/2 quart (16 oz) 7-Up


  1. For the Mock Champagne:  Combine all three ingredients and stir.  Set aside.
  2. For the Cake:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour 9x13-inch cake pan or baking dish; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt); set aside.
  4. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Reduce speed to medium and add egg whites, one at a time; add vanilla.
  6. Mix in food coloring5. Stop mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  7. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients and champagne in three alternating additions, starting and ending with dry ingredient.
  8. Pour into prepared cake pan or baking dish and bake 25-35 minutes or until knife comes out clean from center.
  9. For the Buttercream:  Beat butter for several minutes until light and fluffy.
  10. Add sugar, champagne, vanilla and food coloring and beat for several minutes until light and creamy.


To Assemble:


1 Pink Champagne Cake
1 batch Pink Champagne Buttercream
60 6-inch lollipop sticks
32 ounces white chocolate or white chocolate melts, roughly chopped
½ - 1 cup diamond sugar (optional but recommended)


  1. Line a baking sheet with wax paper or non-stick foil and set aside.
  2. Break cooled cake into pieces and place in a large bowl; crumble cake into small crumbs with fingers.
  3. Add buttercream to cake and mix with a spoon until all cake crumbs are coated.
  4. Use a small cookie dough scoop or large spoon to scoop balls of dough onto wax paper
  5. Use your hands to roll the cake scoops into balls.
  6. Cover with another sheet of wax paper and place in freezer for at least one hour.
  7. Prepare another baking sheet with wax paper or non-stick foil for finished pops. 
  8. Once cake balls are frozen, you can make the cake pops.
  9. Put white chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and place in over a pot of simmering water; stir chocolate constantly until melted (you can also melt the white chocolate in the microwave).
  10. Remove balls from freezer; dip the top of each lollipop stick about ¼ of an inch into the white chocolate and immediately press into cake ball two thirds of the way through.
  11. Once complete, dip each cake pop, one at a time, into white chocolate; lightly tap off excess chocolate and place cake pop on wax paper and decorate with sprinkles/sugar/edible color mist immediately before chocolate hardens.
  12. Repeat until all cake pops are dipped and decorated.
  13. Allow to cool and for chocolate to harden before serving.


 We wish you ALL a VERY Happy and Wonderful New Year!!!  From all of us at Young Chefs® Academy!






2:23 PM

Bake Memories for the Holidays...the French Way!


CandyCane Galette Pinterest

Cher Noël, voici bien longtemps
Tout juste un an
Que je t’attends 

(Dear Christmas, here you are after such a long time
It’s been one whole year
That I’ve waited for you)


If you're thinking you have too much on your plate (excuse the pun!) to make a beautiful side dish for your Christmas events, we've got something for you!  We're sharing one of our favorites from camp this year ~ the Aparagus and Potato Galette.

What is a Galette, you ask?  It is the French word for a pancake, either free-form or round, with either a sweet or savory filling.  Almost any pie can be made into galette. 

This pastry provides a rustic and beautiful presentation and tastes heavenly. And did we mention that it's really easy to make?
And in remaining true to the theme of the recipe, we'll be using Dijon mustard to give our veggies a little flavor "pizzazz."   True Dijon mustard is made in Dijon, the capital city of the Burgundy province in France.  This particular mustard is used in many French menus to add more flavor to a particular dish. 

The flavor of the finished product is rich and robust, with a slight tang from the mustard.  This dish is sure to be a favorite at your holiday gathering!


Allons cuisiner!




Asparagus and Potato Galette


  • 2 small Yukon gold potatoes, thinly sliced (peel or leave skins on)*

  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced**

  • ½ lb. asparagus, ends removed and cut into 1-inch pieces***

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil

  • ¼ tsp. Kosher salt, to taste

  • ¼ tsp black pepper, freshly ground to taste

  • 1 cup Gruyère or Swiss cheese, grated


  • 1 recipe pie dough****

  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard

  • 1 large egg



  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. In a large bowl, toss together the potatoes, onion, asparagus, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the Gruyère or Swiss cheese and toss to combine. Set aside.

  3. Lay out a piece of parchment and lightly flour the surface. Roll the pie dough into a 12-inch circle. Transfer the paper and crust onto a sheet pan.

  4. Spread the mustard on the pie dough, leaving a 3-inch border around the edge. Spoon the potato-asparagus mixture onto the pie dough, leaving a 2 ½-inch border around the edge. Fold the border neatly over the potato mixture.*****

  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the crust with the egg mixture and bake until the crust is golden brown and the vegetables are tender, 30 to 35 minutes. (Cover with foil if the crust is browning too quickly). Transfer to a cutting board and cut into pieces. Serve while still warm.

Yield:  about 8 servings



Galette Recipe Tips:

  • If you do not have a mandaline to slice your potatoes very thin and want to ensure your potatoes cook through in the galette, make this small adjustment ~

    Scrub the outside of the potatoes to remove any dirt or debris. You can either leave the skin on or peel it off.

    Poke a few holes in the potatoes and microwave them on high power for 5 minutes. Par cooking will help to make sure the potatoes are completely cooked when the galette is finished. Then slice them into ¼-inch slices.

  • **Want to add a little more flavor to your galette?  Carmelize your onions!  To do this, heat approx. 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on medium-high heat until the oil shimmers.  Add the onions and coat with the olive oil in the pan, stirring occasionally until you have beautifully rich, browned results.  This does add some extra time to the recipe but provides a richer, fuller flavor.


  • ***How to trim asparagus ~ asparagus are long thin edible stalks. When you purchase them at the grocery store, make sure the tips of the asparagus are bright green and compact. The size of the asparagus doesn’t matter. The thicker the stalk the more mature it is but, it doesn’t affect the flavor. To trim, simply grab the stem in one hand and the stalk with the other and "SNAP!"  This veggie will miraculously snap where the tough end meets the tender part of the asparagus.  Toss the end and cut the tender portion that is left into 1" pieces.


  • ****Save time and purchase pre-made pie dough!  While nothing beats a pie dough from scratch, the pre-made doughs are ready to simply roll out and fill!

  • *****It's easy to pleat the dough as the final touch.  Fold dough the dough onto itself in regularly spaced directions.


YCA Pie Dough


  • ½ cup butter, cut into pieces and chilled
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling dough
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup ice water



  1. Cut the butter into small pieces and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour and salt; pulse 3 to 4 times.
  3. Add the butter and pulse 5 to 6 times until texture looks mealy, or resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Remove lid of food processor and sprinkle half of the ice water over the flour. Replace the lid and pulse 5 or 6 times. Add more water and pulse again until mixture begins to stick together and form a ball.
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl. Squeeze together until it forms a ball, and then press into a rounded disk, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Yield: about 1 pie crust






4:49 PM

All We Want for Christmas....Is A NO-STRESS Gingerbread Experience



Young Chefs® Academy locations have been crafting gingerbread houses with tens of thousands of children and families across the globe for over 10 years.  However, it didn't start there.  In her earliest entrepreneurial years, Young Chefs™ Founder & CEO, Julie Burleson, used her talents to architect and sell custom gingerbread houses for others who found the task to be too daunting to tackle themselves. 

Building your own Gingerbread House from scratch can be a discouraging adventure, to say the least.  But it doesn't have to be!  It starts with a Fool-Proof Dough and a little patience.

So naturally when asked to present some tips for the readers of Reader's Digest®, Julie jumped into the YCA Test Kitchen to start constructing while sharing expert advice along the way.  For the full article, click HERE.

IMG_8176b      IMG_8255

"As with everything culinary, planning and timing is everything.   Gingerbread houses are no exception," states Burleson.  "Allow yourself time to take it slow, planning in stages along the way."

Because so many have asked, we're sharing our tried-and-true recipe and taking some of the mystery out of the process!  This gingerbread recipe produces a strong, finished product versus other gingerbread dough.   Let's get this construction project started!



YCA Gingerbread House Dough


5½cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
¼tsp. baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1¼ cups molasses
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla



  1. In large bowl, thoroughly blend shortening and sugar. Add molasses, egg, and vanilla and beat until smooth. In another bowl, sift dry ingredients.
  2. Gradually stir dry ingredients into molasses mixture. When dough becomes too stiff to stir with a spoon, work dough with hands until completely blended.
  3. Separate dough into four balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and chill a minimum of one hour. (Dough can be stored in refrigerator for up to two weeks.)
  4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a disk of chilled dough directly on non-stick aluminum foil or foil sprayed with non-stick spray,* cut to fit your baking sheet. Cover dough with plastic wrap and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.
  5. Remove plastic wrap, place patterns for house (which you can cut from parchment paper) directly on dough, leaving at least 1/2 inch between patterns. Using a table knife, cut around edges of pattern. Remove scraps of dough, leaving cut pieces on foil. Remove patterns and lay foil directly on baking sheet.
  6. Bake in preheated oven 10-25 minutes, depending on size of pieces. Gingerbread will darken, especially around edges and feel firm to the touch. Remove sheet from oven and allow to cool on sheet. Gently peel gingerbread from foil. You may store pieces in a cool, dry place.

Yield:  Makes about 2 Gingerbread Houses


YCA Royal Icing


3 large or extra large egg whites
3 tsp. cream of tartar
4 cups confectioners sugar


  1. Measure all the ingredients into a bowl.
  2. With an electric mixer, beat for two minutes at low speed and8 to 10 minutes at high speed. A knife or spatula drawn through the icing should leave a clear path that holds its shape.
  3. This recipe is enough for about 2 gingerbread houses. Place the icing into 4 heavy-duty plastic zipper bags. Seal with as little air in the bag as possible and reinforce the zipper with silver duct tape. When you are ready to use the icing, make a small snip in the corner of the bag and squeeze.


Helpful Tips:

  • *We use Reynolds® Non-Stick Foil for best results.
  • This royal icing recipe contains raw egg and should not be eaten. 
  • Royal Icing has a shelf life of one to two weeks if kept in an airtight container with a piece of damp cheesecloth.
  • Since Royal Icing will dry out when exposed to air, you must keep any icing you're not using in an airtight container with a piece of dampened cheesecloth under the lid. Take icing from the container as you need it. You can also simply use a damp paper towel over the icing while icing.

2:04 PM

We're Baking the Season Bright with Swirls!


Peppermint Swirl Pinterest


Surprise your guests (or Santa!) this year with this versatile sugar cookie recipe! 


The swirl cookie can be made to fit any occasion, holiday or your mood!  How? 


  • You can use different flavors and extracts, such as almond, coconut, or anise to jazz up the flavor.

  • Using food colors to tint one section of dough can create vibrantly colored cookies.

  • You can roll or sprinkle finished swirl cookie while still warm in sparkling sugar or colored sprinkles adding a festive element to the cookie.



Best of all, this recipe is incredibly fun and easy....

...but nobody has to know...shhhh....


What are we waiting for? 


Let's Get Baking!!


What happens when you're asked to go to that upcoming cookie-swap party?  You start thinking, "What cookie can I bring that will stand out among the crowd of other cookies?" 

Well, it needs to reflect the season and taste great, but what about presentation?  Since we all eat with our eyes first, we want to catch their attention.  And this cookie does it all!

But as with any baked good, there's a lot more happening behind all that deliciousness.  At Young Chefs® Academy, we teach our students more than just the mechanics of a recipe.  We dig into the techniques, skills and educational components involved with each.  Our students experience cooking and baking in a whole new light, bringing recipes to life, each with its own unique story that will remain with them their entire lives.

For example, the following are just a sampling of the questions and topics of conversation that arose during our Holiday Baking Coalition weekly class theme this month:

Did you know that the tradition of making and sharing cookies with friends dates back to medieval times?  Cookies were much easier to share during winter celebrations than cakes. During this time, cooks were becoming more familiar with spices, such as cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper which were being incorporated into recipes through trade and travels to exotic lands.  

Why do you need to place the dough in the refrigerator? 

This process makes it easier to roll out when the time comes! 

We take it one step further when rolling by placing plastic wrap on top of the dough to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin.  From there, we use "The YCA Way to Rock and Roll" method to create the perfectly rolled dough.



What's up with the egg wash?

The egg white glaze is an important step when making these swirl cookies – the egg whites act like a glue to keep the second cookie dough sheet in place when rolling up the dough.




When you roll up the dough, make sure the outside layer has completely encased the inside layer – it will look nicer when sliced.  Just press the seam edges together for a nice, smooth log.


IMG_8517     IMG_8534



We already refrigerated the dough.  Why does it have to chill before we slice and bake it?

Refrigerating "slice and bake" cookie dough also provides some additional benefits.  King Arthur Flour put it to the test and found some interesting results:

Chilling the dough before baking:

  • Enhances the flavor.
  • Reduces the amount of "spread" due to the fats solidifying when chilled, and allows time for the sugar to absorb liquids in the dough.  This helps it hold it's shape.
  • Produces a chewier/crispier cookie when baked.


Well, enough of that for now!  It's time to head out for the party with our plate of delicious spiral cookies!



Chocolate Peppermint Swirl Cookies


For the vanilla cookie dough:

½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter
½ tsp salt (extra-fine, preferred)
1 ½ tsp vanilla
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup peppermint candy, finely crushed

For the chocolate cookie dough:

½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup cocoa
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

For the egg white glaze:

1 large egg white
1 tbsp. water



  1. To make the vanilla cookie dough: in a medium mixing bowl, cream together sugar, butter, salt and vanilla. Add the flour and crushed candy, stirring to make a cohesive dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
  2. To make the chocolate cookie dough: In a medium mixing bowl, cream together sugar, butter, salt and vanilla. Add the cocoa and flour, stirring to make a cohesive dough. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.
  3. To make the egg white glaze: Whisk together egg white and water until very foamy. Refrigerate until ready to use.
    To make the swirl cookies: Place a piece of parchment or waxed paper on your work surface. Lay one piece of dough on the parchment and use the rolling pin to roll it into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Set it aside.
  4. Using another piece of parchment or waxed paper, roll another piece of dough just slightly smaller than the first, into an 8 ½-by-11 ½-inch rectangle. Brush the egg white glaze over the larger piece of dough. Place the smaller piece of dough on top of the larger piece, using the parchment to transport.
  5. Starting with a long edge, use the parchment to help you gently roll the stacked doughs into a tight log, with no gaps. Press the edge to seal, then wrap the log in plastic wrap or parchment paper and freeze until firm.
  6. Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease or line with parchment two baking sheets.
  7. Remove the dough from the freezer, unwrap, and place it on a clean work surface. Let it thaw for 15 minutes. Use a sharp knife to gently cut the log into ¼-inch slices. If the dough becomes too soft to handle, place it back in the freezer briefly. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets.
  8. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they feel firm. Remove from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies


2:15 PM

Bake the Season Bright...with Candy Canes!


CandyCane Brownies Pinterest_copy

Let's face it...the holidays turn us all back into children as humdrum days transform into something magical.  Joyful music fills the air, homes light up with a warm glow,  and nostalgic memories of families and friends come flooding into our minds. 

It's also the time we get really busy in the I right?  Forget visions of's visions of warm, winter meals and luxurious sweets that dance in our heads.

With our Young Chefs tackling holiday baking this month, we thought we'd join in on the fun and share a few festive indulgences of our own each week that put the "ummmm" in "scr-ummmmm-ptious".

To kick off our weekly treats, here's an easy holiday goody featuring the time-honored candy of Winter ~ the Candy Cane.  By adding this to our sweet, cream cheese frosting, you'll  have a rich, delicious treat to adorn those succulent, chocolatey brownies. 






So slap on the ugliest holiday sweater you can find, turn up the music, and let's get baking!



We mention it often, but this is a stress-saving tip we incorporate anytime we start a new recipe ~ Mise en Place (everything in it's place).  This is a hard-and-fast rule our Young Chefs practice every day.  By having all of your ingredients measured and accounted for, you're ensuring you have everything you need which allows time to focus on the task at hand. 



While it's important not to over-mix your brownie mixture (which could result in tough brownies), this does not necessarily apply to mixing your frosting.  The more you mix your frosting, the lighter and fluffier the final product will become. 

Once you have your brownies frosted, sprinkle on a little of the crushed candy canes for a colorful presentation.

That's all there is to it!  Now all that is left is to grab a fork and dig in!


CandyCane Brownies header1



Candy Cane Cream Cheese Brownies



For the Chocolate Brownies:

  • 1 (1-oz) unsweetened baking chocolate square or wafers
  • 1 (1 oz.) semisweet baking chocolate square or wafers
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (optional)
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the Candy Cane Cream Cheese Frosting:

  •  1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. pure peppermint extract
  • 4 1/2 - 5 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 6 full-size candy canes, crushed



  1. To make the brownies:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place a cookie sheet or pizza stone on the middle oven rack*.  Coat a 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Microwave chocolate squares in a small glass bowl on Medium for 1 1/2 minutes or until melted.  Stir until smooth.
  3. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.  Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.
  4. Add flour and salt, beating at low speed just until blended.  Stir in vanilla, pecans (optional) and chocolate chips.
  5. Spread batter into baking pan.  
  6. Place the pan on top of the preheated cookie sheet or pizza stone.  Bake for 40 minutes or until set.  Cool completely on wire rack.
  7. To make the Frosting:  While the brownies are cooking/cooling, beat butter on medium speed until creamy using an electric mixer with paddle attachment.  Add the cream cheese, vanilla extract and peppermint extract and beat until fully incorporated. 
  8. Gradually increase mixer speed to high and continue beating until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  9. Gradually add 4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, beating on low speed until combined.  Increase speed to high until smooth while scraping down the sides as necessary ~ about 2 minutes.
  10. Spread the frosting on top of the cooled brownies to desired thickness.  Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.


Secret Brownie Tips:

  • Be sure to select a light-colored, shiny pan, which will conduct heat evenly.  Glass or dark-colored pans can cause the edges or over-bake or even burn.
  • Always grease the pan thoroughly with shortening, softened butter, or cooking spray. (Do this even if the recipe doesn't specify.) After greasing the pan, many bakers like to line it with pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil that have been cut larger than the size of the pan so that the edges hang over the sides like a sling. Thoroughly grease the lining. After the brownies have baked and cooled, the lining may be lifted out of the pan and inverted on a platter. Gently peel away the foil or paper, then cut the brownies into squares.  If using aluminum foil, we love Reynolds Wrap Non-Stick Foil for best results.
  • Brownies can also be baked very successfully in a well-greased mini-muffin tin, which eliminates the problem of cutting into squares. It also provides a great means for portion control. Be sure to reduce the baking time to approx. 22-25 minutes.  Check the brownies by inserting a toothpick.  If it comes out clean, they're done!
  • Over mixing the ingredients can cause brownies to turn out tough or for a thin crust to form on top. Mix wet and dry ingredients just long enough to blend them, taking special care not to over-beat after the eggs are added.
  • Experience is the best guide, but here are some general rules. For fudge-style brownies, remove the pan when the sides have shrunk slightly away from the edges of the pan. The center will still be slightly gooey, but will firm up during cooling. Cake-style brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center has a few moist crumbs attached to it.
  • *To prevent burning the bottoms of your brownies, place the pan on a preheated cookie sheet or pizza stone.
  • Allow brownies to cool in the pan before cutting. Brownies will be easier to cut if you place the pan in the freezer for several minutes. Cut cooled brownies with a plastic or table knife to insure smooth-sided bars.







11:14 AM

Fight Cold Season Deliciously

chicken soup1

The winter can be rough...crazy wind-chill factors, sleet and ice, itchy wool clothes.  But we can bear it all if we can avoid the dreaded effects of cold-season.

Cough, cough....

Winter is the time for ice skating, sitting around bonfires, and attending back-to-back holiday parties!  Not clutching a box of tissues with a close eye on when the next dose of cold medicine is allowable.  So why not do what you can to avoid the "flu blues?"

We have our very own secret weapon which may ward off the potential onslaught with that very first sniffle...and of course it involves delicious ingredients.  Who needs cold medicine?

Our Darn Good Cold-Combat Chicken Noodle Soup is so delicious, you shouldn't wait until you're feeling under the weather to pull this bad-boy together.  It's packed with a crazy amount of natural, cold-fighting ingredients that will help you ward off that cold as well as make your taste buds sing.

While we know that the more colorful the food on our plate (or bowl) is, the more nutritional value is included (and we don't mean a plate of gummy bears or Cheetos!).  We won't list them all here, but check out just a few of the nutritional benefits that are naturally comprised in this recipe alone at the bottom of the page.

chicken soup4

For this recipe, you can easily use a rotisserie chicken or pre-cooked chicken breasts.  And, if you're not feeling up to chopping all of these ingredients, purchase them pre-chopped to speed up the process. 

chicken soup3

This makes quite a bit of soup so be sure to use a large Dutch oven. 

TIP:  Noodles soak up some of the liquid as it sits.  To ensure your leftovers have enough of that delicious broth, don't add more noodles than the recipe specifies.  If you find yourself in this predicament with leftover soup, just add a little more broth (and spices, if necessary) before warming it up!

What makes this soup so special? 

The additional seasonings provide some nice medicinal benefits while adding a rich flavor to the soup.  Each bite is packed with vitamins and minerals that contain certain cold-fighting properties, such as antibacterial & immune boosting agents, as well as pain relievers. 

For our own purposes, we used more cayenne than we post in the recipe for added benefits and an extra kick.  But with our roots in Texas, the additional heat from this spice doesn't incinerate our palates!  We suggest starting with a small amount and adding more to your specific taste.

So, let's not waste another minute!  That cold weather is either here or just around the corner.   Let's get started!

chicken soup2

Darn Good Cold-Combat Chicken Noodle Soup


  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1  tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cartons (32 oz. each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz) frozen home-style egg noodles
  • 4 cups chopped fresh kale
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms.  Cook while stirring for 8-10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp and tender.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
  2. Stir in the flour, basil, and salt until blended.  Gradually stir in broth.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered for 10 minutes.
  3. Return to a boil and add noodles.  Reduce heat; simmer, covered for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in kale and chicken.  Add the cayenne, oregano, turmeric, garlic powder. Taste and add additional seasonings if necessary.
  5. Cook covered for 6-8 minutes longer or until kale and noodles are tender.
  6. Add black pepper to taste and serve!

Yield:  Approximately 8 large servings

While we won't list all of the nutritional value of each ingredient, here are a few medicinal benefits from specific ingredients included in this recipe:

Depending on which type of mushroom you use, most are high in antioxidants, detoxifies, and provide fiber to aid in digestion.  They have also been found to improve immune response to infection by stimulating the production of killer T-cells. They are rich in B vitamins, Vitamin D, potassium, copper and iron (just to name a few) are also present in mushrooms.

We've all heard the old adage that carrots improve your vision.  But this little ingredient contains antioxidants, Vitamin A, fiber, potassium and Vitamin C that help boost the immune system, reducing the severity of a cold and duration in which it lasts.  .

High in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants

Along with many other health benefits, studies are beginning to show that garlic may have a very strong antibiotic effect.

Kale is a classified as a "super-food" so you just can't go wrong adding this to the mix!  This little leafy ingredient can increase your nutrient content significantly and provide antioxident benefits. 

This flavorful ingredient has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.  Studies have shown that turmeric can be used as a pain reliever and healing agent.

Don't let the heat scare you away!  This is a key ingredient that has been used in home remedies for years to fight coughs, colds and congestion.  Vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium, manganese, and flavonoids are among the main ingredients that support it's flu-fighting properties.

Studies performed using Oregano to determine it's medicinal value were reported to show antibacterial properties to fight cold symptoms and anti-inflammatory properties. 

1:45 PM

A Deliciously, Twisted Thanksgiving

Pumpkin Bread 4_b of our favorite holidays is just a couple of days away!  Thanksgiving is that time of year where family and friends gather together to create another year of holiday memories.  But let's not forget about all of the great food!

Each year, we look for more recipes to add to our test kitchen arsenal.  One of this year's projects we knew we just had to test out was a Pumpkin Braid Roll.  The flavors of the season add a unique quality to the "regular" bread options and the result of the final product is beautiful.. This bread is sure to be donning our Thanksgiving tables this year. 

And now, we want to share this with you!

This is an easy bread to pull together, however, be sure to make time for the additional rising time necessary.  Just mix, knead, rise, braid, rise and bake! We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have (with a little butter flavored with honey and cinnamon...Yummmm....). 


Pumpkin Bread 3_b

Pumpkin Braid


For the Pumpkin Braid Roll:

1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
3 Tbsp. warm water
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
2 to 2 1/2 cups bread flour*

For the Egg Wash:

1 large egg
1 Tbsp. water


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water (water should be between 105° - 110°). 
  2. In your large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, egg, brown sugar, butter, pie spice, salt, yeast mixture and 1 cup flour.  Beat on medium speed until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.  The dough will be sticky so be sure not to add too much flour.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Lightly oil the inside of your mixing bowl and and turn the dough in the bowl to coat.  Cover with a damp dish towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  4. Punch down the dough.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and divide into thirds.  Roll each into a 16" rope.  Place ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid.  Pinch ends to seal; tuck under.
  5. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350° F.
  6. For egg wash, in a small bowl, whisk egg and water until blended and brush over loaf.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

Yield:  about 12 slices

  • If you don't have bread flour on hand, you can use all-purpose flour.  The dough may not rise as much as with bread flour, however, the results are not dramatic.
  • Remember not to open the oven during the bake time!  This releases some of the heat from the oven!

2:37 PM

Take a decadant bite of this Disney•Pixar COCO-inspired recipe!

IMG_8089 COCO_copy

We are so excited about the release of Disney•Pixar’s “COCO!"  The story shares of the passion possessed by a young boy to follow his dreams amongst the many obstacles that surround him.  Our young chefs can relate as they aspire to master the joy and value of cooking, whether it's to become the next celebrity chef or to simply learn the lifetime skills of the culinary arts. 

In Disney•Pixar’s “Coco,” aspiring musician Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) teams up with charming trickster Héctor (voice of Gael García Bernal) on an extraordinary journey through the Land of the Dead.

When we were approached by representatives of Disney•Pixar to host COCO-inspired events at select locations, we jumped head first into our kitchens to create an exciting hand-on culinary event around the November 22, 2017 movie release.  Each event will take you on a hands-on, culinary adventure signifying the culture and experience of the movie itself. 

Reminiscing about the good ol' days....

As most of us do in the kitchen when cooking with family and friends, we reflected on the past as we worked together in the kitchen.  Fond memories of our past national partnership with Disney•Pixar were recalled when we were presented with the opportunity to help promote the release of Ratatouille® (remember the lovable rat, Remy, as he searched to realize his dream of becoming a chef?). 

Through the sponsorship of The Big Cheese Tour to hosting Open House Events in communities across the US, Young Chefs® Academy brought the magic to life in our kitchens.


Disney•Pixar "COCO" inspired Workshops (in select markets)...

This year, the COCO-inspired workshops will include tasty recipes influenced by the movie.  (Click here to find a participating location near you!)

But of course, we didn't stop there!  While we were at it, we were determined to develop a delicious recipe we could share with all of you that celebrates COCO's main character, Miguel, and his heritage, but to also create a beautiful dish worthy of the upcoming holidays....Dulce de Leche Cheesecake.

This easy recipe returns gorgeous results...not to mention each bite is met with melt-in-your-mouth, creamy goodness.  Without further ado, let's get started!

How many times have you been knee-deep in a recipe, only to find you're missing a key ingredient?  That's why we teach our young chefs how important it is to be prepared before you get started.

First, let's start with mise en place (French term for "everything in its place"). 


Now we're cookin'! 

Everything simply falls into place with this recipe.  But there are a few tips that can help you produce top notch results.  Here goes!

TIP 1: 
Make sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature otherwise you could end up with a lumpy cheesecake!

TIP 2:
Instead of using a stick of butter to grease your pan, simply use the wrapper left from your softened butter to grease your pan.

IMG_8064   IMG_8081

If you'd rather use a stand mixer for the filling, use the paddle attachment as this produces less air (more air = more cracks!).  But be sure not to over-mix!  Over-mixing can create air pockets causing cracks in your cheesecake.  You want a smooth, glossy finish.  

TIP 4:
The steam when using a roasting pan of water helps keep the cheesecake moist and prevents cracks.  However, you will be covering the cheesecake with a glaze, so don't dispare if a crack or two appears! 

You've heard us say this over and over but do not open the oven during baking time!  This reduces the temperature and can cause your cheesecake to sink or crack.


And there you have easy my friends....this little goody will be one of the first recipes to disappear from the holiday table.


IMG_8089 crop

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake


For the crust:

  • 2 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 17 whole graham crackers)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 10 Tbsp. butter, melted

For the Filling:
  • 2 (8-oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canned dulce de leche
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Glaze:
  • 2/3 cup canned dulce de leche
  • 3 Tbsp. (or more) heavy whipping cream
  • Fleur de sel


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 9" springform pan with nonstick spray (bottom and sides). 
  2. For the crust: In the bowl of the food processor, pulse graham crackers until you have fine crumbs.
  3. Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add melted butter; stir until coated. Transfer crumb mixture to the prepared pan. Press evenly onto the bottom of the pan. Bake until crust is light golden, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.
  4. For the filling: Wipe out the bowl of the food processor; blend the cream cheese and sugar in processor until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of the bowl.  Be sure not to overbeat!
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, processing 3 to 5 seconds to blend between additions. Add the dulce de leche and vanilla; process about 10 seconds. Spread batter evenly over cooled crust.
  6. Place a roasting pan of water on the bottom rack and set the springform pan on the rack above that to create steam and prevent it from drying out.
  7. Bake until just set in center and edges are puffed and center jiggles slightly, about 38 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely.
  8. For the glaze: Heat the dulce de leche and 3 tablespoons cream in a microwave-safe bowl in 10-second intervals until melted. Stir to blend, adding more cream by teaspoonful if too thick to pour (the amount of cream needed will depend on the brand of dulce de leche).
  9. Pour glaze over the cooled cheesecake and spread evenly. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Lightly sprinkle bars with fleur de sel or sea salt.

About Disney•Pixar COCO:

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Héctor (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel's family history.

Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”), co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist “Monsters University”) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (“Toy Story 3”), Disney•Pixar’s “Coco” opens in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017. For more information, check out, Hashtag: #PixarCoco, Pixar Coco Facebook, Pixar Coco Twitter and Pixar Coco Instagram.

1:29 PM

Cheesecake for Breakfast? But of Course!!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Pancakes 2

It's comfort food season!  The time of year when the air gets crisp, carved pumpkins adorn the front porch and the scents of Autumn take over the senses.  Aromatic smells of seasonal recipes and ingredients from the warm kitchen fill the air reminding you that all is good with the world.

With this in mind, we were craving something sweet and it had to include pumpkin (it IS that time of year, right?), but not the traditional pumpkin pie.  (Side note, did you know that in early colonial times, pumpkins were used as in ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling?  Go figure? We'll have to test that out soon.)  Okay, back to the subject at hand..what did we choose?  We chose a recipe that combined some of our favorite Fall flavors: pumpkin and cinnamon.  And voila!  Our Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Pancakes were brought to life!

For this recipe, we brought in a special "young chef," Dallas, to help us create this tongue-tingling breakfast delicacy to show that you're never too young to start cooking!  Don't let her age fool you.... she mastered the measuring, whisking, combining and more like a pro.  With just a little help with the mixer, griddle and assembling activities, our sweet chef created these by herself. 

Dallas hard at work making the tasty Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Pancakes

Way to go, Dallas!  Sprinkle on a few pecans with a drizzle of maple syrup and you have a stunning, covet-worthy dish.  And whether you choose to make these for breakfast or brunch (or even dinner!), these pancakes combine the flavors of seasonal ingredients that make you all warm and cozy on the inside.... even when it's chilly outside!

Buon Appetito!!!

Did you know that there's a lot of science happening behind these simple flapjacks?  Check out some of our tips below to find out how!

Maple Pumpkin Cheesecake Pancakes


For the Pumpkin Pancakes:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 1/3 cup milk, room temperature
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg, room temperature
1 Tbsp. oil

For the Cheesecake Filling:

1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 1/2 Tbsp. powdered sugar (add more "to taste")

Extra maple syrup for topping (optional)
Pecans for topping (optional)

  1. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon & pumpkin pie spice in a large mixing bowl to combine.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk milk, pumpkin puree, egg and oil. 
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the pumpkin mixture into the well.  Stir until just ,moistened.  Be sure not to overmix!* Let pancake batter rest while you make the filling. 
  4. Heat griddle.  Prepare cheesecake filling by whipping the cream cheese, sour cream, maple syrup and powdered sugar.  Whip until slightly fluffy.
  5. Pour pancake batter onto hot griddle ~ about 1/3 cup each.  Flip once you see small air bubbles appear and cook for about 1 minute more

  • Why not just add all of the ingredients in one bowl and mix?  We use the muffin-method when making pancakes ~ this is where you mix your wet & dry ingredients separately before combining them creating more tender results in your final product. 
  • *What happens if I overmix?  Well...the gluten in the flour starts to develop as soon as liquid touches it.  The more you mix, the tougher the gluten strands become making for a tougher, chewier pancake.  
  • But there's lumps in my batter!  Don't worry if your batter has lumps after mixing! The trick is to let it rest for about 15 minutes (not much more than that).  When you let your batter rest, the gluten relaxes a bit making your pancakes tender.  Relaxing the batter also allows some of the lumps to dissolve.  Any left-over lumps will just cook away!
  • To rest or not to rest...that is the question:  Should you let your pancake batter rest before cooking?  The answer is yes!  Allowing your batter to rest for 5-10 minutes (but not much longer) before baking allows the gluten that has developed to relax.  This makes for a lighter, more tender finish and not tough and rubbery.
  • Not sure when to flip your pancake?  Once the edges get slightly crispy and air bubbles start to form at the top, it's time to flip!
  • My mother always presses the pancakes down with a spatula...why?  Don't do it!!  You'll undue all the efforts you've made for fluffy, light pancakes! 

About the Young Chefs® Academy KinderCooks program:  Where our youngest "Chefs in Training" are the main ingredient!  The Young Chefs® Academy KinderCook program is paced accordingly for an elementary aged child's attention span and incorporates age-appropriate recipes and culinary skills while integrating basic nutrition, kitchen safety, and teaching moments to help young chefs become an active participant in the family kitchen.

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!

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