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.
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.

8:52 AM

Dublin Coddle...the Ultimate Comfort Food for St. Patrick's Day!

Laughter is brightest where food is best” (Irish proverb)…and we couldn’t agree more. 

One thing we’re looking forward to in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day is sharing delicious, comforting foods with family and friends that originate from this beautiful, lush country.  What will be on the menu?  The choice was difficult to make so we thought we’d go with a less obvious choice for our celebration meal.  This year, we selected a traditional Dublin favorite as the highlight, Dublin Coddle.


This dish dates back to the 1700s, but you won’t find it on many menus outside of Dublin.  This warm, comforting stew is a super easy dish to prepare….just prep, layer and leave it be for at least an hour and a half!  Now you can focus on some of the accompanying recipes, like warm Irish soda bread and heavenly bread pudding.

“Sláinte!” (Health!/Cheers!)



  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 slices pre-cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1 pound pre-cooked port link sausage, sliced
  • 2 large potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced (1/4 inch)
  • Fresh herb bundle of bay leaf and thyme, tied with kitchen twine
  • ¼ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 3 cups apple cider OR chicken/beef stock



  • Measuring spoons
  • Knife
  • Large Pot
  • Skillet
  • Kitchen twine



  1. In a skillet with 1 Tbsp. butter, soften onion and garlic over medium-low heat.  Place in large pot.  Add bacon, sausage, potatoes, and carrots.
  2. Bury the bundle of fresh herbs in the middle of the mixture.  Sprinkle with pepper and salt.  Cover with cider. 
  3. Cook covered, 1½ hours over medium-low heat; do not boil.  Remove herb bundle. 


YieldMakes 6, 1 cup servings.

* Tip: Coddle is ALWAYS best eaten the day after it is prepared.


Irish Kitchen Prayer: 

Bless us with good food,

The gift of gab and hearty laughter. 

May the Love and Joy we share

be with us ever after.


4:25 PM

YCA Reaches Milestone As They Gear Up For Expansion

Reflecting on their relentless pursuit of perfecting their Recipe for: SUCCESS AND HAPPINESS

As we look back at not only the last year, but since the inception of Young Chefs Academy in 2004, our hearts are full.


Many of you have heard the story of how YCA founder and CEO, Julie Burleson, brought the YCA concept from a dream to reality (Female Entrepreneur interview with Julie found HERE)  But it’s the stories and events that have unfolded over the past 10+ years that continue to make us stand back in wonder at all that has occurred since the beginning.

However, if you ask anyone of us at the YCA Headquarters in Waco, TX, we will say the biggest sense of pride comes from those we have welcomed into the YCA family…the franchise owners.  These successful franchisees are a KEY ingredient of the YCA organization.  They are the folks who touch the lives of the families in their communities.

A major milestone is reached for the Young Chefs brand:

2016 marked the first 10-year Franchise Renewals for Young Chefs as four franchises were awarded a second ten-year Franchise Agreement.  This is quite a milestone in any franchise company; and one that does not go unnoticed at the YCA Headquarters.

What is the secret to success?  The YCA FRANCHISEES.  At YCA, we are committed to bringing aboard franchisees who are passionate about our mission, are business savvy and believe in the power of following a proven system.  These four locations’ owners exemplify these key traits.

Congratulations to Lyle Stone, owner Marlboro, NJ ~, Kristen Braia owner, Richmond, VA Jill Jacobs, owner Gahanna, OH Karen and Chris Chesleigh, owners, Forest Hills, NY.  We are proud to call you our partners.

But, what’s it really like to own a YCA Business?

We recently caught up with these owners to hear what they had to say about their journeys as YCA franchise owners.  See for yourself the JOY they bring to their business and why the YCA family VALUES them!

Lyle Stone pic
Lyle in his YCA kitchen in Marlboro, NJ

"At YCA Marlboro, 2016 was a wonderful year of small miracles— seeing student’s skills grow and watching them develop a love of cooking. Our program for 2017, from Kindercooks to Teens and our students with disabilities, has increased dramatically. We are hopeful for more miracles for 2017!"

~Lyle Stone, YCA Franchise Owner in Marlboro, NJ

"I chose a cooking school for children because so many wonderful things can come out of the kitchen. A healthy relationship with food, a sense of confidence that comes with real accomplishment and real contribution, and it’s just plain fun to share the joy of cooking."

"My favorite thing is watching the kids grow within our program, not just with their culinary skills, but in their lives, real positive change. It makes everything we do worthwhile. These kids become like family and their parents do too."

~ Kristen Braia, YCA Franchise Owner in Richmond, VA
Kristen Braia in the classroom


Jill with Faith, a YCA student diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Jill sponsored a fundraiser for Faith and her classmates
"My fondest childhood memories are from my grandmother's kitchen.  Years later, I realized that food brought us together and that while we were cooking meals we were creating memories. I couldn't resist the opportunity to get paid for creating more memories and the opportunity to share that with children in my community.

I love what I do and it never feels like work! "

~ Jill Jacobs, YCA Franchise Owner in Gahanna, OH

"Seeing our students’ prideful faces at the end of each class. It's such a positive love filled environment. It makes us happy living in the moment.

In 2006 I read an article in Working Women's Magazine. Instantly I knew I had found my mission in life. What a perfect way to educate children about nutrition through this creative vehicle."

~ Chris & Karen Chesleigh, YCA Franchise Owner in Forest Hills, NY
Chris & Karen with Josh Reisner, Season 2 finalist on MasterChef Junior


These people are our SECRET INGREDIENT.  They are the pioneers who have been with us through the successes, the challenges, the changes.  We honor them today and look forward to having them on board as our leaders, advocates, mentors to the new owners and all that we’ll be welcoming aboard in the years to come.  It’s an exciting time for YCA and we have these franchise owners to thank!

11:30 AM

"Let The Good Times Roll" with YCA's Bake For Family Fun Month!

mardi gras

When you think of Mardi Gras, what comes to mind? 

      Jazz and a variety of other lively music on every street corner?   

      Bright colors of green, gold and purple?  

      Parades filled with beautifully designed floats and sequined masks? 

But we certainly can't forget the incredible tastes and aromas associated with this lively event! 

While New Orleans boasts some of the most delicious dishes such as the colorful King Cake, sweet Beignets, savory Jambalaya, Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice, Muffulettas and so much more, there’s one sweet treat we want to share for our last week of Bake For Family Fun recipes….the Praline


These famous confections are among our favorite New Orleans food traditions.  While the origin of the praline most likely originated in France, the confection made its way to the states as French immigrants began to make their roots in Louisiana.  The almonds typically found in pralines were replaced with the Southern native pecan.

Our Young Chefs® created an easy, super-fast, delicious pecan-version of this sweet confection.  Did we say “super-fast?”  This recipe takes literally less than 30 minutes to make from start to finish!  Wanna test it…Let's go and Laissez les bons temps rouler (~ Let the Good Times Roll!)


Microwave Pralines


  • 1 ½ cups brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. margarine plus extra to grease wax paper
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups pecan halves



  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Microwave-safe bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Waxed paper

  1. Spread extra margarine on large sheet of waxed paper.
  2. In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine sugar, cream, salt, 2 Tbsp. margarine, and pecans.  Microwave 7-9 minutes on high, stirring once halfway though.  Let rest 1 minute.  CAUTION:  Praline mixture is very hot!
  3. Stir in vanilla and continue to stir 3 more minutes.  Drop by teaspoonful onto greased waxed paper.  (If mixture is runny, allow to cool 30 seconds more and try again.)

4:22 PM

Reliving My Biggest Middle School Nightmare During This Year's IFA Convention

by Young Chefs Academy Founder & CEO, Julie Burleson

It happened during the International Franchise Association (IFA) Annual Convention earlier this month.  More about my middle school flashback in a bit.  The IFA Convention is where over 4000 franchise industry professionals convene to network, brainstorm, share best practices, with one common goal ~ protecting, enhancing and supporting franchising.


This year, I was honored to be invited to facilitate during the IFA’s Business Solutions Roundtables.  These highly attended sessions are just one example of the many ways the IFA fosters productive discussions amongst the convention attendees.  My topic was ‘Recruiting the best team members for start-up franchisors.’ ~ A subject near and dear to my heart.

It was here…

…as the roundtable sessions were about to begin… I’m waiting for the doors to open and attendees to flood the room, that I was transported back to middle school gym class.   The teacher’s announcing “We’re picking teams!!!! …There I sat at my round table thinking, ‘will anyone pick me?’  My neighboring facilitator and I shared a laugh as we conspired to put our tables together if we ended up alone, all only long enough to see folks scrambling to find a spot (whew) at our tables.  As facilitator, I did my best to keep the discussions on topic, allowing everyone a chance to talk.  As is the case in any one of the many meetings and sessions that take place over the course of an IFA convention, the experience was enlightening and thought provoking.



NEWS FLASH: ALL FRANCHISE COMPANIES ARE CREATED EQUAL.  What’s that you say ~ Pizza, donuts, window washing, children’s cooking schools?  Yes – when it comes to the topic of Recruiting the Right Team for your Start-Up Franchise Company.

Several franchise concepts were represented and many ideas shared during my roundtable discussions, from using LinkedIn as a recruiting tool, to hiring future leaders to meet budget restraints.  However, one key take-away emerged that was met with widespread agreement, and I believe worthy of noting.

Here it is.


Before you do anything, do this first:

Define your Company Culture.

Company Culture ~ a buzz word you hear a lot these days; but for good reason.  Company culture can be defined as a set of shared values, beliefs and behaviors that will define how a company operates.  It can be from how employees dress, act or perform their jobs, all the way to a formally written code of values.  Culture can evolve over time, depending on the cumulative traits of the employees; in other words, pay close attention to whom you hire because each person that does not fit your culture, will affect it.

Fact: You can’t change people’s “cultural behavior”.  So, by defining the key cultural attributes important to your company before you hire, it enables you to recruit for not only skill set but also for a person’s “culture”.  By doing so, you’re increasing your odds of maintaining the desired culture as the company grows.

Why this is important for a franchise company: Corporate culture will permeate through to your franchisees and on to their teams.

Important:  Sales people are members of your TEAM, whether they’re on salary or contract or brokers.   If I could impart just one piece of advice to start up franchisors, this would be it: 

Only work with sales people that exemplify your company culture.

Your sales team is tasked with an important role.  They are matchmakers ~ who evaluate the traits and passions of a prospective franchise, looking for a perfect match for your company.  Salespeople are often the first point of contact, therefore make the first impression for your company.  Franchise sales experts often operate by their own “tried and true” method.  This method is their culture; and remember, you can’t change that.  The franchisor must be able to count on them to project trust, honesty and confidence when speaking to prospects.  New franchise owners should come into a franchise system with no preconceived notions or false perceptions ~ to ensure a stronger, more stable franchisor/franchisee relationship.

FACT: NOT ALL SALESPEOPLE ARE CREATED EQUALLY.  So, ask your peers, ask your mentors, ask fellow franchisors, ask everyone you meet through the IFA.  The right sales people are out there; but you must do your research to find the right fit for your company.

All of this from one round table session!  If you are serious about franchising, The IFA Annual Convention is the place to be.  Franchising, an American invention, is a strong business model when responsibly operated.  I will add, getting the right team on board, by aligning your culture with your team’s, is key to the company’s strength.

P.S. Become a member of the IFA.

P.P.S. Become an active member of the IFA, middle school nightmares and all ~ it’s an investment you won’t regret.

9:17 AM

Break Out The Waffle Iron In Honor Of National Hot Breakfast Month!


There’s nothing better than waking up after a great night’s sleep to the sounds and sweet smells of breakfast cooking in the other room….Ahhhhhh…..

Anthony Bourdain couldn’t have said it any better – “What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast?” 

In honor of National Hot Breakfast Month, toss the frozen toaster options back in the freezer and make something delectable for friends and family that will have their mouth watering in anticipation!  Our Young Chefs tested this delicious twist on your ordinary waffles….Orange Waffles with Orange Maple Syrup ~ sweet Belgian waffles with a hint of tangy citrus.  All we can say is D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S.  (and super easy!)!

Simply serve these up with a few orange slices on the side and your favorite protein (we’re thinking bacon…who doesn’t like bacon?).  But be careful!  You may become the family’s sole designated breakfast chef!

Happy #BakeForFamilyFunMonth!

Orange Waffles with Orange Maple Syrup


For the waffles:
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 2 medium oranges, zest and juice
  • Club soda
For the syrup:
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup orange juice


  • Mixing bowls
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Spoon or whisk
  • Microplane
  • Waffle iron
  • Plate
  • Small saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Measuring cups


  1. Preheat the waffle iron. Preheat oven to 200°F.
  2. In large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to just combine.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and melted butter together. Fold into the dry ingredients until the flour is just moistened.
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, add the zest and juice of both oranges. Add enough club soda to make 1 ¼ cups of liquid. Add this to the flour mixture and fold in until it is just combined. Set aside and let rest for 5 minutes.
  5. Cook the waffles in the waffle iron until they are crisp and golden brown. Keep warm while cooking the rest of the waffle batter. Serve with the orange maple syrup.
  6. For the syrup:  In a small sauce pan, add the maple syrup and orange juice. Heat to a simmer until the syrup is warm and combined with the orange juice.
  7. Remove from the heat and serve while still warm with the orange waffles.

about 6 servings

Note: if desired, ¾ cup toasted, chopped pecans can be added to the batter. Add the pecans in with the dry ingredients.

9:45 AM

"Bake For Family Fun" Makes Game Day That Much More Delicious!

Picture this….you’ve been invited to the ultimate Super Bowl Party where everyone brings a delicious snack to share.  Should you stick to the old fallback recipe of football shaped cookies?  7-layer dip?  Cocktail sausages slathered in BBQ Sauce?  No way!  You want to bring something that stands out from the rest.  Twist things up a bit with delicious, savory Parmesan Garlic Pretzels!   These soft pretzels are just as good with or without dipping sauce! 


Our Young Chefs have tons of fun making these pretzels. There’s a lot of science happening behind-the-scenes when making a yeast dough. During class, we talk about how different ingredients cause specific reactions when brought together during the making of this simple recipe. It’s like a crazy science experiment happening without you even realizing it! It’s really kind of amazing!

For instance, we teach how yeast is a living plant which breathes and grows (sounds like a scary movie, right!?). It thrives on the sugar added to dough which produces a gas that stretches the dough and causes it to rise, and how certain proteins form gluten when mixed with a liquid which gives an elastic quality to the dough. But, we’ll skip the whole science lesson from here and move onto the recipe!

Check out the recipe and tips below!

(We brought in a couple of our test kitchen teens to show their stuff!)

Parmesan Garlic Pretzels


  • 1 ¾ cup warm water, divided
  • ½ tsp. plus a pinch of dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup bread flour
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Pepperoni slices (optional)
  • ½ tsp. dried, minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. sweet butter
  • Pizza sauce for dipping (optional)


  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Bowls
  • Wooden spoons
  • Baking sheet
  • Cooking spray
  • Towel
  • Pastry brush


  1.  In a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast onto ¾ cup warm water; stir to dissolve.  Add sugar and salt; stir until dissolved.  Stir in both flours and knead dough until smooth and elastic*.  Cover the bowl with a warm, damp towel and let rise ½ hour.
  2. Place cheese into a pie pan.  Set aside.
  3. It’s time to start twisting!  After dough has risen, cut strips of dough that measure 1 ½” x 8”.  Shape each strip of dough into a cigar shape and then use the palms of your hands to roll the dough back and forth against the counter.  Start in the middle of strip.  Work from the middle of the dough and press outward as you roll to lengthen the rope.  Roll each piece into a rope ½” x 24” (about the thickness of your finger).  Do not over-roll the rope.  Shape into a pretzel.
  4. Prepare a baking soda water bath by mixing baking soda with 1 cup warm water. Stir water bath often.  (Note:  If the soda does not fizz, it’s not fresh!)
  5. Dip pretzels into soda solution, place on towel to drain excess.  Dip the face of each pretzel in cheese mixture and place on greased baking sheet.  If using pepperoni, place approximately 6 pepperonis on each pretzel.  Let rest again for 25 minutes.
  6. Preheat oven to 450 degrees while pretzels rest.
  7. Melt butter in the microwave, then add the garlic.  Let sit while pretzels bake.
  8. Bake pretzels for 5 minutes on the center rack.  After 5 minutes, use oven mitts to rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake an additional 4-5 minute or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and brush tops with melted butter mixture.  Serve with pizza sauce or use any remaining garlic butter for dipping.  Makes 6 large (5-6”) pretzels.

Additional Tips:
  • It’s important to use warm water here as it allows the yeast to activate and start to grow so the dough will rise.  
  • Not sure if your kneaded long enough?  *Try the “Poke” test to make sure the kneading process is complete after about 4-10 minutes, or when the dough is smooth, satiny and elastic.  You’ll know it’s ready when you give it a little “poke” and the dough springs back!
  • If your rope starts to shrink back a bit, roll it partway, let it rest and then roll it out the rest of the way!

10:00 AM

What Gifts Do We Cherish the Most?

The holidays are here…we can almost taste it.  The joyful time of year when reflection of years past provides a warm glow to the season.  This time of year, all of us at Young Chefs Academy reflect on what the season truly means to us.  Dr. Seuss couldn’t have said it any better:  "'Maybe Christmas', he thought, 'doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more!'"  Oh, that Dr. Seuss got to the heart of it with that simple sentence.   However, we feel it means a WHOLE lot more!

As we reminisce on the many ways our Young Chefs family and community has grown this past year ~ whether it be how our students were empowered to give back during our Cookies for Kids Cancer events, our amazing new Franchise Owners we welcomed into the fold, or our veteran Franchise Owners who have grown with us over the years ~ we are filled with thankfulness for each one of them

With that in mind, we asked those in our franchise family what gifts they cherished most this season.  Our hearts grew a little bigger with each story:

I cherish the stories kids and their families bring back to YCA, how they cooked what they learned or applied the technique. It is so rewarding to know that such a lil' push from the kitchen brings families together!”  ~Chef Nora - YCA Frisco, TX Owner  (

“The gift I cherish the most from being a YCA franchise owner is seeing the kids get satisfaction out of creating a recipe.  They get so excited knowing they created something so delicious and they are proud to share what they made with their loved ones. This is something I have in common with them and is the reason why I wanted to own a YCA, I am so lucky to share my love of cooking with these kids and hopefully they will grow up and continue to share their passion and love for it too.”  ~ Chefs Tina & Sebastian– YCA New City, NY Owner  (

“My favorite thing is watching the kids grow within our program, not just with their culinary skills, but in their lives, real positive change.  It makes everything we do worthwhile.  These kids become like family and their parents do too.”  ~ Chef Kristen – YCA Richmond, VA Owner  (

"What Karen and I cherish the most is when we hear from our students or their parents that they use our YCA recipes for family meals. We also hear from several students that they have created a tradition to bring a homemade YCA recipe to every special family gathering. We are thrilled to help in those traditions." ~ Chef Chris & Karen – YCA Forest Hills, NY Owner  (


What’s our New Year’s Resolution?  To bring the life-long skill of cooking to even more children and teens across the globe ~ in a way only YCA can do!

Wishing you all a very delicious Christmas and many moments to savor in the New Year…from our kitchen to yours.

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