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.
2:39 PM

Summer Sizzles at Young Chefs Academy


11 -ccicBanner

Summer Camp 2018

It’s hard to think of now but before you know it Summer will be knocking at our door.  The snow will melt, the sun will be shining and parents will be looking for something to avoid the boredom blues with more to experience than video games and cartoons.  With so many options, it can be difficult to choose. 

Young Chefs® Academy provides an interactive, fun alternative to the summer norm.  Camp Can-I-Cook® camp experiences are filled with more than simply cooking a recipe. 

What makes Young Chefs® Academy Camp unique?

  • 3-hours of culinary FUN each day
  • Develop new culinary skills & techniques
  • Learn about unique cultural flavors, festive tips
  • Empower creativity to explore new discoveries with flavors and pairings
  • Experience new activities and focuses each day
  • Create new friendships through teamwork activities
  • Develop personal growth skills and confidence in the kitchen
  • Cultivate a life-long skill that can be carried with them their entire lives

And get bug spray, sunscreen or packing required!  We supply everything our campers need during each 3-hour, interactive day.

Our talented and expert curriculum team has been hard at work over the past several months developing new and exciting culinary adventures for summer.  The creativity will be flowing during each camp experience allowing our budding young chefs to flourish. 



And now...

it's time to reveal....

(drum roll, please)...


our exciting line-up of summer camp fun for 2018!!


2018 Summer Camp Themes

YCA Showdown:  Chocolate Edition

Chocolate, sweet chocolate!  Our Chocolate Showdown will be filled with friendly competition each day where our Young Chefs™ will master the art of chocolate.  Surprises await around each corner where students will use their creativity to concoct some of the most delectable dishes.

YCA Showdown:  Baking Edition

Teams will compete in a series of challenges each day after learning tips and tricks from the master chefs at Young Chefs® Academy!  Sweet and savory will connect to bring the most delicious creations to life.  Bring it on!! 

YCA Showdown:  Secret Ingredient Edition

Hummm….who knows what surprises await during this week’s camp!  What will each day bring?  Only our young chefs will know once they unlock the secret ingredient of the day where, not only will they learn secrets of the trade, but will let their creative juices flow as they create unique dishes of their very own!  Who needs a recipe!

The Cupcake Shoppe

Be the master of your very own Cupcake Shoppe as you learn design techniques and skills used to construct the most delicious concoctions that taste as great as they look!

International Culinary Tour

Haemul Pajeon, Ukoy, Hotteok?  What do all of these have in common?  They are delicious recipes unique to countries you will explore ONLY at Young Chefs® Academy during our International Culinary Tour!  Come Taste the Journey!

It's a Summer Party!

Summer’s not summer without a party!  Join us as we party our way through summer with unparalleled festive and delicious dishes.

Summertime Treats

BBQ’s, Picnics, Glamping…it’s what summer is all about!  Join us as we explore summer treats that are sure to beat the heat….and tantalize our taste buds! 

Summer Road Trip

Have you ever dreamed of going on a culinary food trip through the United States? Join us as our taste buds travel and explore cuisines from coast-to-coast during this culinary escapade!  Buckle up for adventure!

About Camp Can-I-Cook:

Camp Can-I-Cook is the place to be during special times of the year. Each camp consists of a three-hour session for three or four consecutive days (depending on each independently owned and operated franchise location). Campers will get to experience new tastes and learn to prepare recipes from various cuisines "with a twist".  

Find a location near you at and save your space in our kitchen before they fill up! 

11:35 AM

By Guest Columnist, Deb Evans, CFE
President Deb Evans Consulting, Social Geek Radio Sponsor

Is there anything better than new franchisee excitement during training?

Usually, when I arrive at a training, social media is one piece of the operations puzzle that a franchisee is the least excited to learn. New franchise owner training is like drinking from a fire hose. So much to learn, retain and implement when they return to their territories. They are often tired and glazed over.

But when I meet a new franchisee with a high level of excitement and says, "I have always wanted to do a Facebook live and can't wait to learn how", I run with it and we all have a great time!

Allentown, PA, Wesley Chapel FL, Coral Springs FL, Sunnyvale CA and Ohio communities are fortunate to have Young Chefs Academy entering their communities!

Thank you, Julie, Roger, Jamie, Charles and the Young Chefs corporate team for the opportunity to work with your system.

To learn more about Young Chefs Academy franchise opportunities:

Tune into Your Working Life podcast with Julie Burleson who shares her journey and the journey of a franchise prospect for Young Chefs Academy



Deb Evans   About Deb Evans:

Deb Evans Consulting partners with local businesses and franchise systems by adding value to their social media  platforms.

Deb does this by working closely with business owners and franchise leaders assessing their social media presence and together develop a comprehensive, easy to implement a social media marketing plan.

Founder Deb Evans is an International Franchise Association (IFA) Certified Franchise Executive, Speaker, and Social Media Enthusiast.  Deb entered the franchise world first as an employee then as a franchisee in 1996. From 2004 – 2010, Deb was president of Computer Explorers technology education franchise. As a franchisor, she advised on digital media activities across the brand for internal communications, customer service, and marketing strategies building and expanding the digital footprint for the brand and franchisees.

After 16+ years as a franchise employee, franchisee and franchisor, Deb established Deb Evans Consulting to educate/train franchise industry leaders and small business owners to create and strengthen a culture and community through the use of social media and marketing.

8:25 AM

How Young Chefs Academy Founder and CEO Turned Her Passions Into A Profession

Marlboro MCs 


Culinary learning opportunities for children and teens were slim to none when Young Chefs® Academy Founder and CEO, Julie Burleson, came up with the idea behind a cooking school for kids, teens and families. 


Check out the recent Business News Daily Business News Daily Article to find out more about how the idea was conceived and the driving force behind the Young Chefs® Academy concept.


Young Chefs Academy Had MasterChef™ Programs before MasterChef Jr....

Julie was the visionary who identified a need and acted on it, paving the way for others to witness the many advantages there were to teaching children the joy and value of cooking.  When Young Chefs® Academy began, there was no special programming for children in the culinary realm, such as MasterChef Jr., Chopped Jr., and, Kids Baking Championship, as there are today.

In its infancy, Julie created the official MasterChef™ Program.  This program provided an avenue for serious young chefs to work towards a common goal of mastering the essential culinary skills developed over an extended period of time.  Members acquire patches after accomplishing specific skills which ultimately commences to earning the coveted MasterChef™ Jacket.   The program ultimately gave rise to several members selected as finalists on some of the top television cooking programs on television today, such as Josh of our Forest Hills, NY location or Riley from Fort Worth.

"The team at Young Chefs Academy recommended that I audition for MasterChef Junior when I was 10. Initially I was scared and very, very skeptical. I had all these images of Gordon Ramsay throwing things, cursing, being extremely intimidating, and of me embarrassing myself," states Josh during an interview with Ramentality (  Today, Josh continues to pursue his love of cooking through Pop-Up Ramen restaurant experiences and television appearances.

Build it and they will come....

What started as a local cooking school for kids in Waco, TX quickly blossomed into an international franchise with locations across the globe. The Young Chefs® Academy's mission has always been to teach the joy and value of cooking to children and teens.

A key element built within the Young Chefs Academy philosophy is the continued pursuit to differentiate the brand and provide innovative initiatives affording the YCA franchise family the ability to flourish. 

Our goal is to maintain a strong brand presence through:

  • A network of strong franchise owners who share our passion
  • The devotion of creating an unparalleled customer experience
  • Robust programming & retention programs
  • Executive team with over 150 years of franchise experience dedicated to maintaining and seeking innovative solutions for our franchise owners and customers
  • A company culture and concept like no other in the market today
  • National partnerships who align with our core mission

To grow is to change...


In an effort to further strengthen our brand, Julie brought on two key partners to the team, Roger Schmidt and Kevin Ayers in 2014.  With their many years of franchise experience, the Young Chefs® Academy brand continues to flourish into new markets, both domestically and internationally.

"Both Kevin & Roger bring with them extensive franchise experience and a passion for what Young Chefs™ is all about," states Burleson.  "Our company culture is one that I feel strongly about maintaining and both of my partners share the same core beliefs within the culture we have created."

Take a listen to the latest podcast where Julie shares insight about how she grew her family

and her business with the Young Chefs Academy franchise on Your Working Life with Caroline Dowd-Higgins:

Let's face's about more than just learning a recipe...Young Chefs® Academy offers the opportunity to bring  ingredients to life through creative expression, the mastering of techniques, learning about new cuisines, and developing a love for crafting something uniquely their own.  Each class, event and birthday party creates a culinary experience that our Young Chefs can take with them that will last a lifetime. 

To find out more about Young Chefs Academy franchise opportunities, visit us at:



Behind the scenes with Julie B.: 



At the Merideth Group in New York City on a visit with Parenting Magazine


"Serious Fun" when Kevin's around....(pictured with Julie ~ Kevin Ayers, YCA Vice President)



Julie & Roger (YCA President) at the IFA Convention


Julie_Roger_BelAir_YCA background

Fuzzy Friends Fundraising Dinner with YCA chefs in the kitchen

From left to right:  Roger Schmidt (YCA President); Julie, Adam & Anthony Bell (Father/son YCA owners of Bel Air, MD)



Julie in the YCA Corporate Headquarter's Test Kitchen


Julie with YCA Owner in Forest Hills, NY, Chris Chesleigh during on-site visit








3:34 PM

Earn the Extra Point With These Touchdown Recipes!


No matter who you're rooting for, game day food brings us together.  This year, forget the traditional buffalo wings and cheese dip (although we do love these!).  Call an audible and create these little, bites-of-heaven with our winning touchdown recipes that will have your guests drooling!

To get us started our test kitchen created a tastier version of the traditional slider....


  • Miso Mushroom Sliders with a flavorful aioli
  • Chili Dog Sliders with homemade Tomatillo Relish

Then we added a zesty side to top it all off:


  • Our Zesty Salt & Vinegar Fries with Chipotle Ketchup


These little goodies are easy to pull together just in time for the big kickoff! 

Let's go TEAM!!


Miso Mushroom Sliders


1/2 Red Onion
8 oz. mushrooms

1 cup mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, peeled
Pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. yellow miso paste
1 tsp. red wine vinegar


1 1/4 lb. ground chuck (80/20%)
1 Tbsp. yellow miso paste
1 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Olive oil to brush on rolls
10 slider buns or rolls

1 tsp. olive oil

5 slices white cheddar cheese, sliced into quarters


  1. Cut mushrooms and red onion into thin slices.  Set aside.
  2. For the aioli:  Mince the garlic and add a pinch of salt.  Continue mincing the garlic and salt until it has become a paste.  Use the side of the knife to press the two together.  Once a paste has formed, transfer to a mixing bowl.
  3. Add the mayonnaise, miso and vinegar.  Whisk together well; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  4. For the burgers:  Combine ground beef, 1 Tbsp. miso, hoisin, Parmesan, salt and pepper in a medium mixing bowl.  Shape the meat into 10 balls.  Flatten the balls so they are about 2 inches thick.  Using your finger, make a small dimple in the middle of each burger.  (This will prevent your burgers from bulging when cooked and create a more evenly flat burger.) 
  5. Heat a medium non-stick pan over medium-high heat.  Brush cut side down of each bun with olive oil.  Toast, cut side down, until golden brown for about 1 to 2 minutes. 
  6. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tsp. olive oil and enough patties to not overcrowd the pan.  Cook for about 4 minutes, then flip and add mushrooms.  Cook until mushrooms are brown and burgers reach a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees ~ 4-5 minutes.  Transfer burgers to a plate and top with 2 of the quartered pieces of sliced cheese.
  7. Place a bottom bun on plate and top with the aioli, burger, mushrooms and red onion.  Cover with top bun.



IMG_8883  IMG_8910

1st Down Chili Dog Sliders


Tomatillo Relish:

8 oz. tomatillos (~ 3 med.), finely chopped
3 Tbsp. fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp. lime juice (1-2 limes)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed if desired, finely chopped
½ medium red onion, finely chopped

6 all-beef sausages, grilled
10 oz. can of chili



  1. For the Tomatillo Relish: Mix together the tomatillos, cilantro, lime juice, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, jalapenos and onions in a large mixing bowl until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the flavors to marry.
  2. Cut a "V" shape out of the baguette and remove some of the bread to make room for the sausages and toppings.
  3. To serve, line grilled sausages into the well of the bread.  Top with chili, mustard and relish.  Slice into bite-size pieces and serve.



Salt & Vinegar Oven Fries with Chipotle Ketchup


4 cups Yukon Gold potatoes with skin, approx. 4 medium potatoes
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar for soaking, plus 2 Tbsp. for sprinkling
Parmesan cheese for garnish


Chipotle ketchup:

½ cup ketchup
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 can chipotle pepper in adobo, finely chopped, plus 2 tsp. adobo sauce



  1. For the Chipotle Ketchup:  Pour the ketchup, vinegar, chipotles and adobo sauce directly into a food processor and run until pureed.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. For the Potatoes:  Cut each potato into four slabs (depending on width) then cut again across those four slabs to make 1/2 inch stick shapes.  The important thing is you keep as uniform in size as possible.
  3. Soak the potatoes in enough cold water to cover.  Soaking removes the excess starch and makes them crisp up when they are baked.  Stir in 2 Tbsp. vinegar and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes up to overnight. 
  4. After soaking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Drain the potatoes and dry on paper towels.  It’s very important to remove the moisture so the potatoes will crisp in the oven.
  5. Toss the potatoes on a baking sheet where they will be in a single layer, with the olive oil, salt, pepper and parsley.
  6. Bake on the first side for 20 minutes, then flip and bake for another 15-20 until golden and crisp.  Sprinkle with sea salt & 2 Tbsp. vinegar.  Garnish with a sprinkle of Parmesan.


Yield:   Serves 6

2:10 PM

It's "Chili" In Our Kitchen!




Winter is here in all of its chillingly, wonderful glory and we were pumped about making a delicious chili to warm us up as the winter storms hit...although this recipe is one we make year round due to the incredibly exquisite flavor. 

Depending on the level of heat you prefer, this recipe can be altered to your taste, however, the combination of ingredients used in this recipe creates a nice balance of mild to medium warmth depending on how many seeds you use from the jalapeno.

To Bean or Not To Bean.....

There are a multitude of opinions on whether a chili is truly a chili if it contains beans.  Some of our Southern friends may have some objections to know we added beans but, just as with most recipes, ingredients evolve over time across different regions to create new delicacies from age-old favorites.  One of our favorite activities with our Young Chefs involve empowering them to look for new ways to craft a dish and make it their own using their knowledge of spices, flavor combinations and cooking techniques.  Cooking is an art and a great avenue for our students to share their creativity using the knowledge they have learned along their journey.



If you've peeked below at the recipe already, don't let the ingredient list alarm you...most are basic seasonings and other items you probably have on hand.  And as always, MISE EN PLACE!  Ensuring you gather and prep your ingredients ahead of time will save a lot of headaches during the cooking process. 

As you begin prepping your spicier ingredients, consider a few of these tips to help you get the best level of heat for your palette:

  • If you want less heat, simply leave out a portion (or ALL!) of the seeds from your jalapeno.  If you want more, add them all!
  • Start with a little less of the fiery ingredients:  chili powder, chipotle pepper sauce and the San Marcos chipotle pepper in adobo sauce.  You can always add a little more in during the cooking process after taste testing.
  • If you like it spicy, you can add more of the ingredients listed in the recipe to create the perfect blazing-hot flavor you prefer.  But be sure to just add a little at a time and taste test!  You don't want a final product that tastes delicious but is so scorching that you can barely get past the first spoonful.
  • Be mindful of the flavor palettes of others...this recipe combination was designed to highlight the flavor over the heat, but it's better to ere on the side of caution if you aren't sure of others tolerance.

Okay, now let's turn the heat up in the kitchen and get the entire family involved in the cooking process....gathering and prepping ingredients, taste testing, discussing how some flavors enhance others, mixing, stirring,...involving your children in the process provides a sense of ownership in the dish they helped to create.  Not to mention the irreplaceable memories you're building along the way!



YCA Champion Chili


  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 red or green jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 yellow Onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves 
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 1/2 lbs. lean ground beef or turkey
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder, or to taste
  • 2 tsp. bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 (7.5 oz) can San Marcos Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. chili powder, or to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp chipotle pepper sauce, or to taste
  •  1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 (16 oz) cans dark red kidney beans
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Cook and stir jalapeno peppers, onion,, garlic, and bell pepper in the hot oil until softened.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook and stir beef in the hot skillet until browned and crumbly ~ 5-7 minutes.  Add Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder.  Add bouillon granules over beef and add 1/2 cup chicken broth and stir.  Continue to cook, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, until liquid is hot ~ 3 minutes.  Stir beef mixture into pepper mixture.
  3. Stir crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, 1/2 cup chicken broth and 1 Tbsp. vinegar to the beef mixture.  Chop the pepper from the chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or use a food processor).  Add the pepper and the adobo sauce to the mixture.  Season with chili powder, 2 Tbsp. cumin, brown sugar, pepper sauce, basil, paprika, salt, oregano and black pepper.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium.  Cover and simmer for approximately 90 minutes to allow flavors to fully develop ~ stirring occasionally.
  4. Mix kidney beans into beef and vegetables.  Continue to simmer until beans are hot, about 30 minutes more.
  5. Blend sour cream, cilantro, and remaining 1/2 tsp. cumin in a food processor until smooth.  Serve sour cream mixture with chili.



"Cooking Is Love Made Visible"...

...especially with a steaming bowl of chili

 Chili Pinterest










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.







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