Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl

If you read my Sunday Blessings post last week, you know I made a big life decision recently. What you don’t know is what exactly that decision was.
Until now.

Dun dun dunnn! So dramatic.
So here’s the deal. Last week, I officially submitted my resignation with my current company and accepted a new job offer with a non-profit organization where I used to be an intern during college. Telling my current employer was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in a long time, but I am so excited for the new opportunity. Change is difficult, but change is good. Right?
Right.

Now that I have that news off my chest, let’s talk brownies.
I have yet to make brownies from scratch that are as good as brownies from a box. Hashtag sorry I’m not sorry. If you know of a good one, please share. But I’d be hard pressed to believe Ghirardelli or Betty Crocker don’t put up a good fight. In this particular case, I used a dark chocolate mix from Ghirardelli. 

Another reason why I love using a box mix sometimes is because it allows me to spend more time focusing on ways to add to it and make it my own. Not only did I use the help of a box mix for these chocolatey delights, but our good friend Joe (Trader Joe that is) provided me with Candy Cane Joe Joe’s. If you’ve never had them, just imagine peppermint Oreos.

I actually have my aunt/God mother to thank for the Joe Joe’s. The cookies along with some crunchy cookie butter were her Christmas gift to me this year. She knows me well.

Between Ghirardelli chocolate, peppermint cookies, and an easy homemade cream cheese filling, what we have here is one decadent treat. But don’t worry if that sounds too decadent for you. I subbed Greek yogurt for the oil, so that counts for something! If you made a new year’s resolution to lose weight or eat healthier, this totally counts.

Or if you just need something to warm your soul and make you do a little happy dance, these brownies are for you.

One last thing before I go. Happy, happy birthday to my husband! Greg wouldn’t touch these brownies with a ten foot pole, but I’m making it up to him with a special dinner tonight. Dessert isn’t his thing, but a (spoiler-alert) Mexican style dinner is!

Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl
(Adapted from recipe on back of the Ghirardelli brownie box)
Makes about 16 servings
Ingredients:
1 box Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie mix (or another mix of choice)
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
25 Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (or another similar cookie)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten (you will only use half of this)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9×9 inch pan with nonstick spray. Gently twist Joe Joe’s apart and cover the bottom of the pan with half of the separated cookies. Set pan aside.
2. Prepare brownie batter by combining mix, egg, water and Greek yogurt. Pour half of the batter into the pan. Add remaining cookies, cream side down, on top of the batter. Pour remaining brownie batter on top of the cookies.
3. Prepare the cream cheese filling by combining cream cheese, sugar, half of the beaten egg, vanilla and peppermint extract in a small bowl (discard the other half of the egg, or reuse for something else). Use a butter knife or spatula to swirl cream cheese mixture across the top of the brownie batter.
4. Bake 32-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15-20 minutes before cutting into squares. 

Mini Red Velvet Brownie Pies

The little sugar-loving devil inside of me won the fight. You know, the internal fight I have with myself on a daily basis to make the best choices possible when it comes to what I eat.  Yeah, that fight. It can be very violent I tell you. The claws come out and there may even be hair-pulling. 
Ok, no not really. 
Healthified” and “gluten free” desserts were well and good this past week, but it was only a matter of time until I indulged in a homemade treat like this again. A dessert with full-fat butter, sugar and that notorious refined white all-purpose flour rarely disappoints. And I was going to enjoy every last bite. 

This is one recipe I have been hanging onto for several months and now can finally announce with certainty I will not be letting it go anytime soon. It lived up to every expectation I had. 
This is how it started…
Jessica made red velvet browniesDorothy adapted that to make a red velvet brownie pie. Now I have adapted that to make Mini Red Velvet Brownie Pies. 
So. dang. cute. 
I’ll take three.
After a couple of late nights out this weekend, spending a lazy Sunday afternoon enjoying something like this is just what I needed. 
Mini Red Velvet Brownie Pies
(Adapted from How Sweet It Is and Crazy for Crust; I halved their recipe which is reflected below)
Makes 9 mini pies
Ingredients:
Refrigerated pie crust, cut into 9-3inch circles (using a circular cookie cutter is the easiest way)
For the brownies-
1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon red food coloring
For the cream cheese whipped cream frosting-
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin tin with nonstick spray. Place one circular pie crust into the bottom of 9 of the wells and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add egg, then 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Mix until well combined. 
3. In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder, food coloring and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir thoroughly. Add to stand-mixer and blend. Add flour and salt. Continue to mix until well combined. 
4. Pour about 2 tablespoons of batter on top of the pie crusts in the wells. Spread in an even layer with spoon, or gently tap pan on counter to flatten batter. 
5. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle of a mini pie comes out clean.  
6. While pies are baking, prepare frosting. Beat heavy whipping cream and 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar. Fold cream cheese mixture into whipped cream. 
7. Once pies have cooled completely, frost as desired!

Mint Oreo Stuffed Brownies

Ok enough with the “real food” recipes I tortured you with earlier this week and back to my roots: Deeeessert. Chocolatey dessert. Stuffed with Oreos. Need I say more?

Didn’t think so.
I don’t know that Oreo-stuffed anything can compare to these cookies, but these brownies are close.  
The original recipe calls for your ordinary Oreos, but when I saw the Mint kind, I knew they would make the perfect filling. Just imagine Thin Mints, but ten times better…and thicker for that matter. Maybe these should be called Thick Mints. 

If I didn’t need to transport these on a three-hour road trip, I would have frosted them with chocolate on top. But have zero skill when it comes to packaging and transporting baked goods. The frosting will have to wait until next time. 

As if Oreos aren’t good enough on their own, let’s go ahead and dunk them in pool of brownie mix for an added sugar rush. 
Mint Oreo Stuffed Brownies
(Adapted from Picky Palate)
Makes 3 dozen brownies, or about a whole box of Oreos
Ingredients:
1 box brownie mix (and egg/oil/water according to package directions)
1 package Cool Mint Oreos
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin tin very generously with non-stick spray.
2. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. 
3. Dip whole Oreo in the brownie batter so it is completely covered. Place in the bottom of muffin tin. Repeat until all of the Oreos and/or brownie batter is used.
4. Bake for 12-14 minutes. Remove from oven and run a plastic knife along the edges of each brownie to loosen from pan. 
5. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from pan. 

Tailgate Treats

All last week I was looking forward to the Auburn football game at Clemson this past Saturday. I was excited for the game itself, but the tailgate was a large part of that excitement. Tailgate = a good great excuse to bake some themed treats!

Being from Columbus, I was born and raised a proud OSU fan. And I still am. I do admit, it’s a little more difficult to support the Buckeyes from so far away and having so many haters down here doesn’t help either. I may not be able to catch every game, but my heart is and always will bleed scarlet and gray.

Greg on the other hand is all about the Auburn Tigers. After more than three years of dating the guy, I now consider myself an Auburn fan by association. Since his parents are Clemson grads, I decided to stick with the mutual color of orange.

I used my go-to sugar cookie recipe. I honestly don’t know if I will ever use another recipe besides this one. These are too perfect and delicious. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
I also made brownies from scratch for the first time. I couldn’t wait to use the Trader Joe’s cocoa powder I bought!
I always seem to find myself scraping the bowl clean with a spatula to get every last bit of dough or batter off of the mixing bowls while I bake. I don’t do this to add to what’s already in the pan. I do this so I have a snack while my treats are cooking, duh! 
As good as cookie dough is, the finished product really always is better. I try to remember that while I bake so I don’t eat too much dough in the process. 
Brownie batter on the other hand might be better than finished product. I love it. Mmmm. Mmmm. 
Ok, maybe there have been a few extra fudgy, chewy brownies in my life that were better than the batter ever could be. But not this time. 
I wasn’t too satisfied with these brownies. They were just okay. Not great. The brownie itself was decent, but I tried to get fancy with a white chocolate spread on top. 
Note to self: Brownies and white chocolate don’t work (I bet you guys could have warned me about that, huh?).
It helped spruce up their appearance, but that was pretty much all it did. 
I will not be defeated by a poor performance. Brownies, I will be back to conquer you. 
In the meantime, we will focus on the cookies! 

Wait, where did they go???
In case you need it again, here is the recipe for those amazing smile-makers. 
Brownies
(Adapted from Hershey’s)
Makes 16 brownies
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the topping:
1/2 cup white chocolate morsels, melted
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch baking pan.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together butter, sugar and vanilla. Add eggs and stir well. 
3. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, cocoa baking powder and salt. 
4. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture until well combined.
5. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake 20-25 minutes.
6. Cool completely and frost with white chocolate.