campfire 7-layer bar pie

Camp Cooking: Magic Layer Pie

This Magic Layer Pie, which is adapted from the new, revised edition of my camping cookbook, Campfire Cuisine, is super easy to make—you just layer the ingredients into the pan and go—and only requires a frying pan, with a lid or foil to cover it, and a camp stove (it would work equally well on your stovetop at home). It’s sure to delight campers of all persuasions.

campfire 7-layer bar pie

It’s officially camping season and all around me, throngs of outdoor adventurers are readying their camping gear and pondering whether to head for the mountains or the desert, the coast or the woods. Me? I’m already planning the menu. Don’t get me wrong, I love the outdoors as much as the next guy, but for me, the food is the highlight of any camping—or life—adventure. And that sentiment goes doubly for dessert.

There is just something deeply satisfying about sweet treats—gooey, toasty s’mores oozing with chocolate, fresh summer peaches baked over a fire with a rousing shot of rum, piping hot bananas baked with brown sugar and cinnamon—eaten under a sky lit up by millions of stars, breathing fresh air scented by tall trees, rich earth, and a crackling campfire.

What I’ve learned in my years of cooking at camp sites is that the food doesn’t need to be elaborate to delectable. This Magic Layer Pie is a perfect example. It’s a skillet-cooked version of that elementary school bake sale staple known as Seven-Layer Bars—layers of graham cracker crumbs, butter, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, and chopped pecans all baked together into oozy deliciousness.

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Orange Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze (AKA “Man Cake”)

orange cake with chocolate glaze

One of my favorite recipes in The Lazy Gourmet is this easy Orange Cake with Crème Fraîche and Bittersweet Chocolate Drizzle. I love that this beautiful and delicious orange cake can be mixed together with a spoon (no electric mixer!) in one bowl. Baked in a bundt pan and finished with a rich dark chocolate glaze (that, by the way, takes two minutes to make in the microwave), it’s a bajillion times easier than even your easiest frosted layer cake. In short, it’s a cake that even a devoted non-baker, such as myself, can really impress people with.

As if that weren’t enough, Juliana and I noticed another curious, and highly appealing thing about this cake when we were testing the recipe: Men (and boys) invariably went crazy for it. Husbands, fathers, step-fathers, brothers-in-law, sons, guys from the neighborhood—literally every male human who tasted it just went nuts over it. That is how it came to be known, in Lazy Gourmet Land, as “Man Cake.”

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3 ingredient chocolate hazelnut cookies

Easy as One, Two, Three: Three-Ingredient Gianduia Sandwich Cookies

3 ingredient chocolate hazelnut cookies
Irresistable, Easy, 3-Ingredient Chocolate-Hazelnut Sandwich Cookies

My husband walked in on me this morning and I was so embarrassed. There I was, standing at my kitchen counter, in front of the open cupboard, using a spoon to shovel Nutella right out of the container into my mouth. I can’t help myself. I have no self-control. I don’t normally keep Nutella in the house for this very reason, but after years of lusting after the stuff as a straight-up chocolate fix, I have recently discovered that you can cook with it, too, and had to buy a jar.

The recipe that tempted me came from Desserts 1-2-3: Deliciously Simple Three-Ingredient Recipes, by Rozanne Gold—a book that I’ve had for years but rarely used. The recipes in the book all have only three ingredients, which is an undeniably appealing concept for a Lazy Gourmet such as myself. And they all seem very clever, too, although often I wonder if they wouldn’t be just that much better with a few more ingredients added. But the other day, as I flipped through the book for the millionth time, this recipe that I somehow overlooked in previous reads nearly leapt off the page at me: Gianduia Sandwich Cookies. Gianduia is Italian for the chocolate-hazelnut paste commonly sold under the brand name Nutella. Here Nutella is a decidedly smart vehicle for getting the flavors of both chocolate and hazelnut into these rich, crunchy cookies while only using up one of the three allotted ingredient spots.

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Buttermilk Biscuits: Buttery, Fluffy, and Perfect

buttermilk biscuits

About ten years ago I discovered that my stepfather was a huge fan of biscuits, so I decided to make a batch for his birthday. Poking around the internet, granter of all wishes, I found this simple, classic recipe that launched an instant family tradition. My stepfather went so out of his mind with delight over the warm, fluffy, buttery gift that I continued making them for him every year, and extended the ritual to Father’s Day as well. Somewhere along the way I caught on to the fact that my mother loves biscuits just as much as her husband does (I guess that should have been obvious from years of road trip diner stops that involved much maternal biscuit consumption), so I now make them for her birthday and for Mother’s Day as well. Over the years I’ve occasionally tried to pull out a fresh trick—dabbling with scones, cookies, and even a chocolate bread pudding—but the folks’ enthusiasm, though genuine, was just a smidge short of biscuit-level glee. I no longer mess with tradition.

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