Dana's Mud Pie

I never thought I would post this recipe but here I am, posting away for all the world to see.Fond memories can make you forgive lots of evils.  Evils you haven't thought about for dozens of years or more.  Evils that you would admonish your children for eating despite the fact you ate them with abandon in your youth.  Hey, we didn't know any better.  And now we do.  I am talking about evils like (whisper) Oreos and Heath Bars. Forgive me Father for I have sinned.

My excuse is that this is the first recipe I ever received from a friend and the first dessert I made at home all by myself.  It was good.  Oh, so good.  It made me realize that I could create things that I thought only were served at restaurants.  I didn't know about things like chefs or TV cooking shows.  My mom fed our family.  We had breakfast at home, bag lunch, dinner at home and Marie Calendars or a neighborhood restaurant on special occasions.  That was my world of food.  Oh, I probably made cookies on occasion with Mom or Grandma Flora.  And I know I stirred hot water into the jello powder.  But I don't remember "cooking" anything by myself.  Nothing stands out in my mind as a culinary accomplishment.  But this recipe, my first recipe,  stands out like a blinking neon sign.

It was shortly after I had started high school. Big, public, high school. I was a silly little Catholic girl entering a world of endless possibilities.  My friends all went to the Catholic girls school so I didn't really know anyone at this foreign new place.  Thinking I could make some friends, the first thing I did was try out for the tennis team.

The previous summer I played tennis every day because Mom decided (wisely) that I needed something to do while I was taking a break from the competitive gymnastics that had occupied my days and nights for the previous five years.  Mom joined the San Jose Swim & Racquet Club and she signed me up to play tennis.  Boy did we get our money's worth out of that club.  As I recall, she dropped me off in the morning after breakfast with a few dollars for lunch and I spent the day swimming and playing tennis and playing cards.  All day.  Every day. For three months.

My tennis got pretty good. And being at the host club for a variety of juniors tournaments, I got to meet and play with a lot of really good players that summer of 1975.  Does the name Tracy Austin ring a bell? She won the U.S. Open Women's singles in 1979.  Granted, I was just a warmup for players like Tracy.  But there were lots of almost-Tracy's, and being competitive, I pushed myself every time I got on the court and tried not to embarrass myself too much.  And, side note, I beat Tracy at cards.

As you can imagine, high school tennis was not quite the same as it is now, at least it wasn't at my high school, so when I tried out for the team my freshman year I assumed I would make it since I knew how to play.  That seemed to be the only pre-requisite.  I did make the team.  I ended up playing #1 Doubles and rotated amongst the top five Singles players.  I don't even remember how the season went or how our team did.  Let's just say we didn't have any Tracy's.  The sport wasn't all that important to me and I had only joined in hopes of meeting some new friends.  What I remember about that season, and what is still important to me now, is that my doubles partner was a Senior named Dana and I looked up to her like she was a goddess.  She was smart and funny, beautiful and fit.  And she was a Senior for goodness sake! I couldn't believe my good fortune when it was announced that she and I would lead the team in doubles.

Dana and I became friends.  She had a brother just a year older than me and we all became friends.  I met her family, spent many years socializing with them, and still remain in contact with Dana's brother Tom and his wife Holly. I also knew Holly in high school but she didn't go to the same school and wasn't dating Tom at the time! But that is a story for another day.

On my first visit to Dana's house, she served a dessert she called Mud Pie.  I had never had anything like it. When she told me she made it and it was really easy, I don't know what I thought.  It was so good I must have looked quite stunned when she said she made it.  She asked if I wanted the recipe.  I guess my 14-year-old self believed her that it was easy even though I had never cooked anything before.  So I took the recipe and off I went.  I made it for my family (so it WAS easy) and it was gone in an instant.  I felt accomplished.  I felt confident.  I was on my way.

I still have the stained and soiled recipe card printed in Dana's round, neat letters. I made it recently thinking I probably wouldn't like it anymore but, confess I must, it was delicious.  My dinner guests thought it was amazingly delicious and we finished the whole pie.  It was goopy, crunchy, sweet, rich, and unbelievably decadent like an ice cream sunday in every bite.  It did something wonderful for the child in me. The child that long ago didn't know the possibilities that the world offered, but was given one little glimpse of success by making a Mud Pie.

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Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. -Thomas Carlyle

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 Dana's Mud Pie

20 cream-filled chocolate cookies (Oreos) 1/3 cup melted butter 2 oz semi-sweet chocolate (I used chocolate chips) 1/2 cup sugar 1 T butter 2/3 cup evaporated milk 2 pints (1 quart) coffee ice cream 1 cup whipped cream 1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used chopped almonds) 1/2 cup crushed toffee candy (2 Heath Bars)

Crush cookies and mix well with melted butter.  You can do this in a zip lop bag or in a big bowl.  Press the mixture into a 9"pie plate and chill. Fill chilled shell with softened ice cream and freeze until hard. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in double boiler and add sugar, 1T butter and evaporated milk.  Stir until slightly thickened.  Cool. Pour cooled chocolate mixture over ice cream and sprinkle with crushed candy. Garnish with whipped cream and nuts and freeze until serving. (Or add whipped cream when serving.)

Note:  I made this with Baby Girl and she doesn't like coffee so we used 1 pint of Vanilla and a pint of Dolce de Leche ice cream.  Use any flavor you prefer.  And I hadn't bought a can of whipped cream in a decade but the point of this dessert is that with no special equipment or kitchen skill. you can make a dessert for company.  Let go of the guilt, buy the Oreos and a can of whipped cream and make some mud pie for your friends.  I added the whipped cream at the end instead of freezing with the whipped cream on it.

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