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A&E >  Cooking

Leftovers: Ice cream bars make the base for easy summer dessert

Easy Mud Pie combines summer staples for a fun dessert.  (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
Easy Mud Pie combines summer staples for a fun dessert. (Julia Ditto/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

We’re almost there. We’ve almost made it to the end of summer with all of its record-breaking heat waves and wildfire smoke to boot. At this point in the season, I’ve had it with cooking. I fed my family for two solid months in the summer – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and I’m done.

They can order takeout or eat cereal for dinner, it really doesn’t matter to me anymore. But one thing I will never quit making is dessert. As I often say as I’m mixing up a batch of treats late in the afternoon, “We may not have dinner tonight, but at least we’ll have cookies.”

There’s no better way to make the most of these waning days of summer, and also to satisfy my sweet tooth while getting some leftover this-and-that out of my fridge and freezer, than to make a Ditto family staple: Easy Mud Pie.

I was given this recipe when Logan and I were newly married, and, anxious to impress my new in-laws, I volunteered to make it for dessert one night when everyone had gathered for Sunday dinner.

It really should be fool-proof: You layer ice cream sandwiches in a 9-by-13 pan, slather them with hot fudge and caramel and then spread whipped topping all over the top. It’s decadent, delicious and ridiculously simple … unless you’re a newlywed who doesn’t yet know her way around a kitchen.

I can’t remember if I didn’t have a jar of the caramel required, or if I thought I would really knock everyone’s socks off by making my own from scratch, but whatever I did for the caramel component was a major fail. Once it was added to the ice cream layers, it hardened up like a rock.

I have a vivid memory of my then-11-year-old brother-in-law Andrew reaching into his mouth to extract the piece of caramel he’d been doggedly working on for a while but just couldn’t soften up enough to eat.

Don’t be like me. Use soft and smooth caramel and hot fudge from a jar. Or, if you make them from scratch, at least ensure that you’ve done it right so they won’t harden up like the Rock of Gibraltar. In my case, I usually have at least a couple half-used jars of caramel or chocolate sauce siting in my refrigerator. This is their time to shine.

If you recently hosted a company picnic, or had 5 million neighbor kids over for a pool party, you may have some leftover ice cream sandwiches in your freezer that will serve as the base for the mud pie.

If you don’t, you can use even more pantry and freezer leftovers by crumbling up cookies, patting them in the bottom of a pan and then dolloping softened ice cream on the top. Drizzle hot fudge and caramel over the ice cream and repeat the layers if you have enough ingredients. If you don’t, one layer will do just fine.

The key is to not overthink it. You’re layering ice cream, chocolate and caramel in a pan and then slathering the whole thing with whipped cream – there is literally no way to go wrong; unless, of course, you turn your caramel into monolithic slabs. Don’t do that. Buy a jar.

Easy Mud Pie

12-24 ice cream sandwiches (amount will vary based on the size of sandwiches you purchase)

1 jar hot fudge (or 1 ½ to 2 cups)

1 jar caramel sauce (or 1 ½ to 2 cups)

12 ounces frozen whipped topping, thawed

Layer the ice cream sandwiches to completely cover the bottom of a 9-by-13 pan. Cut some to fit if necessary.

Heat the hot fudge and caramel until they are warm enough to spread. Pour half of the hot fudge on top of the sandwiches, followed by half of the caramel.

Add another layer of sandwiches, and drizzle the remaining hot fudge and caramel on top. Spread the thawed whipped topping over everything. Freeze for at least two hours before cutting into squares to serve.

Julia Ditto can be reached at

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