E Z Brownies

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Years ago a friend and I started a charity event that focused on wine tasting, to benefit our local SPCA. We really had no budget, but wanted to offer foods to go along with the wines.

The first event was successful, with about 400 people attending. That’s considered pretty good in our town of about 50,000 people. Fortunately, it has grown in popularity over the last 20 years!

Back then, money was tight. We couldn’t donate money to our beloved SPCA, but over the years I fostered animals, and volunteered in other ways. And every year, I made food for the wine tasting event, its biggest fund raiser.

A few years in, one of the wine distributors wanted to do chocolate and wine pairings, and I created these E Z brownies for that purpose.

They are called E Z because, wait for it, a box mix is used. Do you think any other time in my life I’d use a box mix???!!! Hell no! But It was for such a good cause.

The brownie mix is enhanced with liqueur, and goodies are added like chocolate chips or toffee bits or dried fruits. It was always fun to mix and match the flavors.

Fortunately, a wonderfully generous beneficiary of the SPCA also owned a liquor store, so she gave me all of the liqueurs I needed for these brownies!

So, for $1.16 per box of brownie mix, I could make hundreds of brownies for not much money, and everyone loved them. I wanted to share the recipe, because you can create a fabulous, customized brownie, starting with a box mix. I still can’t believe I just wrote that 😬

To really make the brownies stretch, I make mini brownies. They’re bite-sized.

Faux Brownies
Makes 16 regular-sized brownies, or cut each into 6 pieces for 96!

1 – 18.3 ounce box brownie mix (brands are different weights)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, whisked
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon flour
1/3 cup liqueur, I used Amarula
1 cup bits and/or chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a 9 x 13” baking pan with corners. These are non-stick, but I still add a little spray oil.

Place the brownie mix, the eggs, flour, and choice for liqueur and stir until the mix is fully incorporated.

Fold in the chips and bits and scrape into the prepared baking pan.

In these brownies I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chips and dried cranberries. Amarula is a fruity liqueur, so I thought this would be a nice combination.


Bake for 22 – 25 minutes.


For thicker brownies, smaller pans can be used, or you can use twice the amount of mix; of course baking times will vary.

You can adjust any box mix just by balancing the dry and wet ingredients. Liqueur is a wet ingredient, so compensate by adding a little flour or even cocoa.

See the cranberry bits and the chocolate chips?.

These brownies are thin, but extremely dense, chocolatey, and chewy.

Like I mentioned, a square pan would bake up thicker brownies, but for a crowd, these 9 x 13″ pans are perfect, especially when one recipe makes 96 mini brownies!

Try these combinations:
Dried tart cherries and Amarula
White chocolate chips and Framboise
Dark chocolate chips and Bailey’s
Toffee bits and Buttershots
White chocolate chips and Rumchata
Candied nuts and Amaretto
Freeze-dried raspberries and Grand Marnier
Caramel Corn and Kahlua
White chocolate chips and Chambord

Dipping Oil

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Recently, a girlfriend of mine asked me if I had a recipe for dipping oil. And I was taken aback. I have never made a dipping oil before. I love them – in fact I love when restaurants serve their hot breads with the combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. As long as I don’t choke on the vinegar, it’s absolutely the most decadent treat. But I’ve never served that at home.

I looked up dipping oils on Williams-Sonoma, just for the heck of it, and what I found really shocked me. Now as you all know, I’m a huge fan of Williams-Sonoma, and I’ve probably single handedly built a few stores from my purchases over the years. But these dipping oils are $12.95 for one 8.5 ounce bottle!

Even considering a high quality olive oil as the base for these seasoned oils, I still find these overpriced. Here are the varieties that can be purchased:

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Pesto recreates the bright flavors of the classic Italian sauce with basil, walnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic and tangy lemon.

Herbs de Provence is a French-inspired blend of herbs de Provence, black pepper, lemon and a hint of Dijon mustard.

Parmesan Garlic is a rich, savory combination of aged parmesan cheese, roasted garlic and Mediterranean herbs.

Rosemary Garlic features a Mediterranean-style blend of rosemary and fragrant garlic, highlighted by tangy lemon and a touch of Dijon mustard.

Sun-Dried Tomato showcases the rich sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes, accented with basil, shallots and spices.

They all sound really good, but the first thing I thought of, not surprisingly, is that they can easily be made at home!

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So I decided to do just that. I started with a clean jar, and then added these ingredients:

Spiced and Herbed Dipping Oil

Good quality olive oil, although any good oil could be used
peppercorns, a nice colorful variety
dried chile peppers
some lavender sprigs
a sprig of rosemary
a couple sprigs of thyme
a few bay leaves
a couple of peeled garlic cloves

Then I shook everything up and let the jar sit in my pantry for 2 weeks. I didn’t add salt, nor did I add cheese. I felt that those ingredients could be added at the time when I serve the dipping oil with bread.

I usually do a separate post for liqueurs and such that take a couple of weeks to “age” properly, but in this case, the oil was ready right before Thanksgiving. So I’ve already played with it, and I am impressed.

I firstly used a funnel with a sieve attached to pour some of the oil into a small dipping bowl.

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And then the tasting began. Or, uh, testing. The taste was spectacular by itself, but I did add some salt.
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Then I added some balsamic vinegar for fun.
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It was a fabulous combination; the vinegar didn’t overwhelm the oil because it’s pretty potent itself.
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I will definitely play with making these oils again. So many different possibilities!
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