Monday, February 24, 2014

Easy Brownie Ice Cream Cake Recipe (Plus Rainbow Birthday Party Ideas!)

Who doesn't like ice cream cake, especially when there are brownies involved??  I made this Brownie Ice Cream Cake for my daughter's 6th birthday party, and it was BY FAR the easiest cake I have ever made (and very tasty, I might add). 

For this particular cake, my daughter chose Cookies n' Cream as the ice cream flavor.  The flavors worked very well together, but that's the beauty of this recipe - there are soooo many ice cream flavors to choose from.  You can even use two different types of ice cream if you want!  See below for the directions, and read on for some fun "Rainbow Birthday Party" ideas!

Easy Brownie Ice Cream Cake

1 box brownie mix (For an 8x8 pan - I used Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie Mix)
Egg, water and oil called for in the mix
1 container ice cream of choice (I used Cookies n' Cream)
1 container Whipped Topping
Sprinkles or garnish of choice
Aluminum foil to line the pan
A 9x13-inch baking dish

Directions:  All I did was bake a box of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate brownies according to the package directions in a 9x13-inch baking dish lined with aluminum foil (the Double Chocolate kind has chocolate chips in the mix that do not melt, so you get a nice "crunch" while eating the brownie portion of the cake).  Make sure the aluminum foil hangs over the edges of the pan so that you can pull the entire cake out of the pan when it is finished.  I used the smaller-sized brownie mix in a larger pan so that the brownie would be a bit thinner, and there would still be room to add the ice cream and whipped topping.  Once the brownie is completely cooled, spread softened ice cream over it, and then spread the whipped topping over the ice cream.  Garnish with sprinkles or toppings of choice.  Freeze for at least 2 hours.  Make sure to take the cake out at least 15 min. before eating so that it can thaw a bit.  Remove the cake from the pan using the aluminum foil, remove the aluminum foil from the cake, and it is ready to eat!

Rainbow Birthday Party Ideas

Looking for ideas for my daughter's Rainbow Birthday Party on Pinterest was fun, but making the ideas a reality was a blast!  UNICORN FOOD:  The "Unicorn Food" pictured above is strawberry-flavored marshmallows on lollipop sticks.  You simply place the marshmallows on the sticks, dip them in water and roll them in sprinkles.  That's it!  The kids loved them.  We used a lot of rainbow crepe paper for decorating.  RAINBOW CAKE:  I looked at a lot of different cake pictures online, but came up with this one on my own.  The rainbow is made from a piece of cardboard with M&Ms attached to both sides with cookie icing.  (If I had to do it again, I would probably use hot glue instead, because it was VERY fragile.  I only picked it up to place it on the cake right before we blew out the candles.) It's hard to see, but there are mini marshmallow "clouds" where the rainbow inserts into the cake.  I just pushed it in and it stayed!  The unicorn is actually a salt shaker that I picked up from Target for $3.  I filled the holes with icing and they were not noticeable.  CRAFT TABLE:  One of the activities we had for the kids was a craft table - I separated beads from the Dollar Tree into "rainbow" colors in baby food jars and had twine out for the kids to make bracelets.  I did the same thing with the crayons - separated them by color and put them into baby food jars decorated with ribbons of the same color.  I printed out unicorn and dragon coloring pages, and also had some stickers, glue and construction paper available.  My daughter is very artsy, so she loved this, but only a few of the other kids actually made anything.


PRETZEL STICKS/SNACKS:  We drizzled pretzel sticks with cookie icing and sugar sprinkles to make them a little more festive.  Other snacks we had included "rainbow" fruit kabobs, coconut black bean brownies for those who had food allergies, and cheese and crackers.  UTENSIL HOLDERS:  I love Mason jars.  I use them for everything, including to hold utensils at parties.  I just added some ribbon to the top to make them a little more decorative.  RAINBOW SCAVENGER HUNT GAME:  The kids loved running around the house during this game!  I used this scavenger hunt as a general template and changed it according to my needs/house.  On the back of each clue, I glued a cute rainbow/cloud.  I placed the "treasure" under the Balloon Rainbow (see below), which included their treat bags, gemstone ring pops that I found at the Dollar Tree, and chocolate coins.

RAINBOW BALLOON GAME:  I found the idea for this game on Pinterest, but the one I saw used darts to pop the balloons.  Six-year-olds and darts just didn't seem like a good idea to me, so we modified it a bit:  Instead of using normal darts, my husband super glued a tack to the end of ONE Nerf Rebelle dart.  He then placed one craft pompom into two different balloons, so that the two kids who popped those two balloons won a prize.  Now, please note that my husband NEVER LET GO OF THE NERF REBELLE with the tack dart in it!  He held it and helped each child aim it so that no one would get hurt by the tack.  The kids had a blast popping all of the balloons!
I'm not sure who had more fun with this party theme - me or my daughter!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Coconut Black Bean Brownies

Come on, you know you want to try one.  My kids did, even though they saw the beans go in!

Despite how they smell prior to baking, these brownies are surprisingly delicious, decadent and satisfying.  I personally don't think you can find a simpler - or better - way to make flourless brownies.  I used this base recipe from Nature's Nurture Blog, and made some minor modifications, including doubling the recipe (if you're going to go through the trouble of blending the beans, you might as well make enough to fill a 9x13 pan...just sayin'.).  Take a walk on the wild side and give these a try - you won't be sorry, I promise!  I think I'm going to have one right now...

Coconut Black Bean Brownies

2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus more for sprinkling)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare a 9x13 inch baking pan with cooking spray.  Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour into a baking pan, smooth the top, and sprinkle with additional chocolate chips.  Bake for approx. 30 minutes or until the brownies pass the toothpick test.

*Note:  I keep these refrigerated.  They also freeze well.*

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes

These are ridiculously good.  So good, I would recommend only making one batch, once per year, because you will eat more than one if they are in your house.  Sugar is addicting, ya know ;)
When making these, I have a few recommendations:  Don't skimp on the Oreos - use real Oreos, that way there's no disappointment (you know what I mean).  Also, don't skimp on the cookie portion.  I know refrigerator dough is easier, but it won't do this special cupcake the justice it deserves.  I used the "Original" Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.  Recipes like this one are all over Pinterest right now (I used this one for directions), but I haven't seen one using the Toll House recipe, which has the perfect blend of sugars and butter.  The cookies are always soft, never crispy and not too cakey.  Perfecto, in my humble opinion.  For these cupcakes, the Toll House recipe is especially important, because the cupcake just melts in your mouth, and the cookie portion is a nice, soft contrast to the harder, Oreo middle.  Trust me, your taste buds will thank you.

If you want to make the cupcakes festive, drizzle with some cookie icing (the icing pictured is store bought).  I also purchased the heart toothpicks and heart-patterned cupcake liners at the Dollar Tree in the Valentine's Day section. 

Don't get me wrong, these are RICH - so if you want a smaller version, make them in a mini-cupcake size and use 1/4 of a piece of Oreo in the middle.  My daughter couldn't finish a whole one, but she really wanted to.
Happy Indulgence Day - er, Valentine's Day ;)
Oreo-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes Recipe
1 package Oreo Cookies
Cookie frosting (optional)
Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Recipe
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (*Omit if using salted butter)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips (*I used 1 cup)
*Preheat oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit.
*Beat butter, sugars and baking soda until combined. Mix in eggs & vanilla.
*Beat in flour.  Stir in chocolate chips.
*Line wells in a muffin tin with cupcake liners. Add cookie dough to the bottom of each well until about 1/3 full and press down.
* Place 1 Oreo in each well  (if using a large muffin tin) or 1/4 Oreo in each well (if using a mini muffin tin).
*Top each well to approx 3/4 full with remaining cookie dough.
*Regular muffin tin:  Bake 12-14 minutes or until edges & tops are lightly browned. Do not over bake!  Mini muffin tin:  Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned.
*Cool completely. Drizzle with cookie frosting and enjoy!

(*Recipe yields 12 cupcakes.  I had enough dough leftover to make about 6 cookies - or you can make around 3 more cupcakes.)