Out Of The Box Brownies: Magical brownie recipes that start with a box



People ask where I get my brownie recipe ideas. I usually say I just make them up. But that’s only half of the story. Interestingly enough, most of my brownie recipes start from a nonbrownie place – and three little words: “What if I…?”

Below are some of my favorite recipe a-ha’s. Maybe you’ll get inspired, too.

What Inspires Me

A trip to the grocery store. The aisles are filled with pretty pictures on packages. With things that are crunchy, fruity, dark, rich. With products that look me in the eye and beg to be ensconced in a brownie. Sometimes, I just wander around, courting potential ingredients. I’ll go to the store for 2 hours and come home with 8 things. Just ask my husband. He still loves me.

I love drink mixes at the grocery store. They are a true showcase for lots of rich, dark, sweet, yummy flavors.


Recipes that I made as a kid. Like black-bottom pie or caramelscotch frosting. Or Hungarian Nut Cookies, a recipe from my great-grandmother, who traveled 5,000 miles on a boat in 1903 to come to America. Now THAT’S inspiring.

A really fabulous meal. OK, I’m not one to brag about having traveled the world. Because I haven’t. But, just once, for 5 days, I got to go to Paris. And I ate myself into a state of bliss with this perfect croissant and a supa-fresh cafe au lait. Someday, I will capture a croissant-and-cafe flavor in a brownie. Just you watch.

Gah. I go a little haywire when I look at this photo. This reminds me that it is DEFINITELY the simple flavors in life that inspire me.


Recipes for cake, pie, or some other dessert. I just LOVE to bake from scratch, so I often get inspired by a recipe of some non-brownie food. Or even a PART of some recipe. Maybe just the frosting from this recipe or just the filling from that recipe.

Candy, candy, candy. Man, do I love candy bars. But WAY better than shoving them into your mouth is shoving them into a brownie. To this day, my favorite brownie is the one where a Mounds Bar is the star. (See Coconut Macadamia Nut Brownies.)

Sometimes, when I’m at the grocery, I stand awestruck in the candy aisle. Just brainstorming, pacing, and rubbing my chin. And creeping out the little children with my delighted muttering.


Cocktails. Mmmm, there are so many tasty-flavored liqueurs out there. The great thing about putting liqueur into a brownie is that it is instant moderation. You just can’t put THAT much alcohol into a brownie without ruining it. So, let’s practice moderation, people…by using brownies!

I find “inspiration in moderation” by having my drink in a brownie! Yum!


Salty snacks. Oh, boy. Do I love things like pretzels and chips and sticks and twists — and all those things that go “crunch” in the night. The challenge is keeping these snicky-snax crispy after they have touched the moistness of a good brownie. I’ve found that one secret to crunch preservation is using a crunchy/salty ingredient that is already protected inside a blanket of chocolate. (To see what I mean, consider this product: Nestle Flipz. Because they are chocolate-coated pretzels, you can stick them right on your brownie without fear of losing the snap of that salty pretzel.) Right now, I’m obsessed with figuring out how to get a Bugle into a brownie, without losing that perfect conical corn crunchiness.

Ohhhh, Bugles. How good would they be in a brownie? (Or is it just me?)

 What inspires you?

2 Comments to “Ideas”

  1. Hi Denise,

    This idea might go along great with your brownies. Here is a great way to make cake mixes into cookies!


    1 box cake mix (Dark Chocolate Fudge, Red Velvet, Lemon, whatever you like)
    1/2 cup canola oil or melted butter (oil=chewy, butter=crisp, or use 1/4 cup each!)
    2 eggs
    1/4 cup brown sugar (for lemon cake mix, I use white granulated sugar)
    1 tsp vanilla

    1 cup chocolate chips
    1/2 cup nuts
    4 oz of cream cheese, softened
    Dried fruit or candy (make your choice depending on cake mix flavor)

    Using one bowl, mix all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and stir. Mix in any chips/nuts. Drop teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 F for 10-12 minutes. For crisper cookies, bake for 14-15 minutes. Makes 20-24 cookies.

  2. Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador says:

    Amy! I love this recipe. I am going to make up an out-of-the-box interpretation of it and will feature it as a recipe sometime soon. Thanks for the GREAT recipe.


Leave a Reply to Denise Leo, Global Brownie Ambassador

two + = 9