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.
2:15 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!

8:46 AM

Oktoberfest Strudel in die Küche!


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

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

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

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


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

  IMG_7842_crop    IMG_7846_crop

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

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

Guten Appetite!


Oktoberfest Strudel with Mustard Sauce


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

For the Mustard Sauce:

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


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

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

German Cucumber Salad

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

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

Yield:  approximately 4 side servings

8:02 AM

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

Tips for making pasta salad:

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

7:33 AM

Happy "NationalCherryPopoverDay !!


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

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

Let's start making the batter! 

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

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

Popover closeup

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

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

CherryPopover5      CherryPopover4

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

CherryPopover3  CherryPopover2

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

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


Popovers with Fresh Cherries and glaze


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


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

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

3:52 PM

Inspire a New Generation of Chefs

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

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

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

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

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

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Creative Empowerment and Increased Self-Esteem

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

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

Appreciation for the cooking process …

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


Family Cooking =  Stronger Family…

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

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

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

Increased Food Experimentation…

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

Cooking Lasts a Lifetime….

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

Don't have the patience or time?

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

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

  • Time
  • Knowledge
  • Patience

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

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

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

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

Just to name a few.....


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

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

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

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

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

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

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