Thursday is National Brownie Day in the United States, which gives chocolate lovers everywhere an extra reason to celebrate. 

Legend has it that brownies were created when Bertha Palmer, the wife of the owner of the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, requested that a pastry chef create a dessert smaller than a piece of cake that could be included in boxed lunches for those attending the Chicago World's Fair: Columbian Exposition in 1893. The modern Palmer House Hotel still serves this delectable dessert from the same original recipe. By 1905, a variety of brownie recipes started popping up in the Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, "Home Cookery," and other publications.

In 2016, you can find hundreds of variations of brownie recipes on Pinterest or browsing the web. As a child, I thought that brownies came in three varieties: with nuts, without nuts, and with or without frosting. When I headed to BYU in 1991, I was pleased to learn that they also come in a mint variety. Since mint and chocolate are two of my favorite flavors, these brownies instantly became my favorite variety. 

In 2006, as I began researching ideas for my book "101 Things to Do With Chocolate," I realized that I could have easily come up with just 101 recipe ideas for brownies. I settled on perfecting eight brownie and 13 bar recipes for one of my favorite books that I have written.

While working on the book, one of my neighbors brought over one of the most delicious brownies that I had ever tried. It could have been the fact that I was nine months pregnant craving anything and everything chocolate that I loved them so much. When she told me how easy they were to make, I fell in love even more. Christy Oldham was kind enough to give me permission to share her Pink Peppermint Frosted Brownies in the book.

Living in Arizona at that same time, I was determined to create a version of the BYU Mint Brownies that I had come to love as a college student. If you have never tried the original, plan a special trip to BYU. The BYU Creamery offers a brownie (with or without nuts) topped with a creme de menthe layer of goodness and frosted with chocolate.  These brownies are one of the hottest-sold commodities for BYU Women's Conference each year.

This December I share with you two of my favorite brownie recipes just in time for National Brownie Day. They can be perfectly plated to give as treats to neighbors this Christmas season since these brownies are "mint" to be shared. Enjoy!

Pink Peppermint Frosted Brownies

1 (9 x 13-inch family size) brownie mix

ingredients listed on back of box

red food coloring

1 container (16 ounces) vanilla frosting

1 bag (10 ounces) Andes Peppermint Crunch Baking Chips

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

3 (1 once each) unsweetened or semisweet chocolate squares

Prepare and bake brownies according to package directions in a greased 9x13-inch pan; cool. Stir drops of red food coloring into vanilla frosting until it reaches desired shade of pink. Frost brownies with pink frosting. Sprinkle peppermint chips over top. In a small saucepan, melt butter and chocolate squares. Drizzle over top brownies. Cool completely before cutting into squares. Makes 24 brownies.

*Variation: Green food coloring and Andes Creme De Menth Baking Chips can be substituted for red coloring and peppermint chips.

Chocolate Mint Layer Brownies

1 (9x13-inch family size) brownie mix

ingredients listed on back of box

Mint Layer:

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons mint extract

3 to 4 drops green food coloring

Chocolate Layer:

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 cup semisweet or mint chocolate chips

1 1/2 tablespoons milk

Prepare and bake brownies according to package directions in a 9x13-inch pan. Allow brownies to cool completely. For the mint layer, combine powdered sugar, butter, mint extract and food coloring. Spread over cooled brownies.  For the chocolate layer, melt together butter, chocolate chips, and milk in a small saucepan. Spread over mint layer and allow to cool. Store leftovers in the refrigerator. Makes 24 brownies.

Stephanie Ashcraft, author of 23 cookbooks including her newest 101 Things to Do With Rice and best selling 101 Things to Do with a Cake Mix, lives in Salem, Utah, with her husband and 5 children. Cooking is her hobby gone out of control. She and her books have appeared in numerous television programs, radio shows, newspapers, and magazines nationwide. She loves sharing how to save time and money in the kitchen. Stephanie has a bachelors degree in Family Science from Brigham Young University.