Upside-down Peach Coffee Cake

There are very few fruits I enjoy more than a “freestone” peach. They have a very short season, so we grab them every time we get the chance. Unfortunately, they usually aren’t labeled so I never know if I am getting a freestone or a cling peach. We were so lucky to find them at our local Costco, but sadly the last batch seemed to have been exposed to too much refrigeration (almost as if they had been partially frozen) and while the flavor was great, the texture was horrible and they sucked to eat raw. I hated to toss them out…so I cooked them and made them all better!

Notice how the pit comes away cleanly from the flesh? That's the beauty of a freestone peach

Notice how the pit comes away cleanly from the flesh? That’s the beauty of a freestone peach

If you know me at all, you know I am not a coffee drinker, but that never stopped me from enjoying a good coffee cake! My mind wandered to pineapple upside down cake and how my Mom used to make it in a cast iron skillet and then I thought, “Why couldn’t I do a coffee cake like that?” In my mind, a coffee cake shouldn’t be overly sweet and this one isn’t. It’s perfect for breakfast or snacking and loaded with caramel and peaches. It’s dense and moist, so you don’t need a huge piece.

When I made this recipe I used a Lodge 12” cast iron skillet. It’s great for everything! I wouldn’t recommend a stainless pan for this recipe – hello, caramel – but an oven safe non-stick pan would work if you adjust the baking time as indicated. A couple of quick notes about the recipe:

  • No need to peel the peaches – BONUS!
  • I made it without the nuts in deference to the Hubby, but I bet it would be great with chopped nuts, so I included variation instructions
  • You can sub regular (not fat free or reduced fat) cream cheese for the mascarpone if you can’t like, but it will make the batter a little tangy
  • This recipe would work well with apples too
  • Cloves and peaches really work well together, so if you like that flavor, make your “pinch” a bit heavier. Same goes for apples.

Upside-down Peach Coffee Cake

serves 12 -16

active time 20 minutes – baking time 40-45 minutes

3 C all-purpose flour

1Tbsp baking powder

¾ tsp sea salt

¾ tsp cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

Pinch of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)

3 large peaches sliced ¼” thick – use more if you want

¾ C packed brown sugar

¾ C unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)

¾ tsp cinnamon

¾ C chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

¼ C plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temp

1 1/8 C packed brown sugar

3 oz mascarpone cheese

3 eggs at room temp

1 ½ C buttermilk

1 Tbsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350

Combine the dry ingredients in a 1 qt bowl and whisk to blend. Set aside.

In a 12” oven safe skillet melt the butter, add the brown sugar and cook over medium flame until it starts to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Top with sliced peaches in a spiral pattern or something decorative. Sprinkle with chopped nuts. Set aside.

Cream together butter, brown sugar and mascarpone until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in thirds, alternating with buttermilk. Stir in vanilla. Mix well.

Pour cake batter onto the prepared peaches, gently spreading the batter to the edges of the skillet. It’s ok if you see a little melted butter around the edges of the pan.

Bake at 350 for about 40 – 45 minutes for cast iron, a bit less for a non-stick pan. Either way, check it at 30 minutes to see how much more time you will need. Top will slightly crack and bounce back when touched lightly and the edges will be dark golden brown.

Allow to cool in pan 10 – 15 minutes, then flip out on a large serving platter. Be CAREFUL, the melted sugar will burn the shit out of you if you get it on your skin. If you wait TOO long to flip it out the caramel won’t run down the sides of the cake and will glue itself to the bottom of the pan. Allow to cool at least 15 minutes after removal from the pan before serving to set the caramel and peaches. Tastes great warm or at room temp.




Five Years and Lemon Bars

For five years I have been sharing my thoughts about food, family, entertaining and all manner of things food related. And you, dear reader, have followed along for the ride. I have taunted you on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with notes and pics about Lemon Bars. And I have posted tons of pics of food, chefs, silliness and fun. And you have all stuck with me. I thank you.

I have tried to be my authentic self, knowing that I won’t appeal to everyone.

Across those five years I have shared glimpses into restaurants, interviews with chefs, rants and pet peeves. And still you like me. Go figure! I have tried to be my authentic self, knowing that I won’t appeal to everyone. I am not trying to. I know that the “Susie Creamcheese” people who are offended by foul language, sexual innuendo and snarky behavior will never like me, so I am not trying to please them. I am just sharing what makes me tick with anyone who wants to come along for the trip.

As a gift to you dear reader, because so many of you have asked…

In five years I have also shared a smattering of recipes. I keep promising to do that more and I fail. It’s not because I don’t WANT to share them with you, it’s because I forget to take pics of the process and finished product. As a gift to you dear reader, because so many of you have asked…here is the recipe for Aunt LeAnne’s Famous Lemon Bars. I know I promised I would never share it, but I have decided to break that promise. My main reason for not wanting to share it is this: if everyone knows how to make them, no one will invite me to make them. Whenever I am in doubt about what to bring to a chef’s house, THIS is what I make. I know they will be perfect and they will get eaten and many of the chefs I know hate to bake, so they appreciate a dessert. Because I cut them into triangles most of the time, Chef John Courtney says they aren’t bars…whatever.

Aunt LeAnne’s Secret Recipe Lemon Bars

What I love about this recipe is that it has the perfect crust to filling ratio for me and my family. Not too thick, and just the right sized bite once cut into squares or triangles. I specify a metal baking dish because the recipe works best with metal.  I have tried glass and stoneware, but metal creates the best crust.  Lining the pan with foil allows you to lift the bars out all at once and move them to a cutting board for cutting.

Makes 36


1½ C all purpose flour

½ C confectioner’s sugar

1½ sticks (3/4 C – 6 oz) unsalted butter – very cold, cut into small pieces


4 eggs

2 large lemons

1 ¼ C sugar

3 Tbsp flour

¾ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp salt

Confectioner’s sugar as needed

Preheat oven to 350

Line a 9×13 metal baking dish with aluminum foil.  Spray with non stick cooking spray.

Combine all the ingredients for the crust and cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand (to speed up this step, you can use a food processor and pulse until correct consistency is reached).

I use a food processor and pulse to get this texture. The French butter from grass fed cows is what makes it so gorgeously yellow.

I use a food processor and pulse the blade to get this texture. The French butter from grass fed cows is what makes it so gorgeously yellow.

Press into bottom of prepared pan.

I use a bench scraper to push the crumbs into the corners and flatten it out evenly.

I use a bench scraper to push the crumbs into the corners and flatten it out evenly. Just lay the bench scraper onto the crumbs and press straight down, flattening each section as you go.

Bake 15 minutes or until the edges JUST start to become golden.

See how the edge is just barely browning? yeah...that.

See how the edge is just barely browning? yeah…that.

While the crust bakes, zest both lemons and juice them to equal ½ C of juice.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs until thick and lemon colored.  Add sugar, juice and all of the zest. Whisk together flour salt and baking powder.  Immediately before pouring onto the hot crust, add flour mixture to the egg mixture (If you add it early in the mixing time the mixture becomes too foamy).

Pour filling onto hot crust and return to oven for 15 minutes or until filling is set and just lightly golden brown around the edges.

Remove to a wire cooling rack and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.  Cool completely.  Cut into bars or triangles.

Cut into squares and then diagonally across each to make triangles. I use a moist pizza cutter to glide through.

Cut into squares and then diagonally across each to make triangles if desired. I use a moist pizza cutter to glide through. Wash it off if it gets clumpy and start again.

Lemon Bars

TIP – If you want them less tangy, use less lemon zest.


And remember, I don’t monetize my blog like so many others. The payment I get is when you share it and invite your friends to read, follow me on social media and post your comments. What I’d really love is if you make the recipe and post pics of your results on my Facebook page or tag me on Instagram when you make them!

Maybe on the 10 year Anniversary I will share Nettie’s World Famous Chicken Salad…probably not.

Prevent the Common Cold (and Scurvy) – Eat Cranberry Bread

Did you know that only three fruits are indigenous to North America? It’s true – blueberries, Concord grapes and the humble and oft maligned cranberry. All three were used as fabric dyes because of their intense pigments and the cranberry was used by Native Americans as a bartering tool among other things. Pirates (ARGH!) carried them on the seas to prevent scurvy. Being a member of the citrus family, ounce for ounce they pack more of a Vitamin C wallop than any other fruit. For years, many of us only ate them once a year in cranberry sauce, but Ocean Spray has done a great job of teaching us how to use them in other ways. We all know Craisins now and who hasn’t had a Cape Cod at the bar now and then? Besides the fact that they are good for you, they taste great when treated properly and fall and winter are the perfect time to enjoy them fresh.

Several years ago Friend Debbie gave me a loaf of Cranberry Bread that was so good I HAD to have the recipe. The recipe shared here is her recipe clarified with expanded directions for novice bakers.

A note about cranberries: To harvest cranberries, the “bogs” are flooded with water because they float. There is a small air pocket in the center that allows them to float. When prepping cranberries for cooking, swirl them in a bowl of water to wash them. The ones that float are fresh and delicious; toss out the ones that sink. Be careful when dumping them into the bowl too. They bounce!

A few tips about baking quick breads

  • When adding the dry ingredients, don’t overmix the dough or you will end up with a tasty, but tough brick instead of tender deliciousness
  • Like all recipes, get everything measured out first so the assembly and mixing is quick and easy
  • Because I like pecans and walnuts equally, they are mostly interchangeable for me. They have about the same weight ad mass, so measurement conversion isn’t necessary
  • My step mom Nettie always said quick breads were better the following day after having been wrapped in foil overnight (moister). Dad says they shouldn’t ever cool down completely.

Debbie Thomsen’s Cranberry Nut Bread

Makes 2 loaves, one to eat and one to gift

4 C flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp fine sea salt

3 large oranges

2 C sugar

¼ C Crisco®

2 large eggs

1 – 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped

1 C walnuts coarsely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350. Grease 2 standard sized loaf pans (I use Pampered Chef™ Stoneware loaf pans and Baker’s Joy™ baking spray).

Whisk together the first 4 ingredients and set aside.

Zest the oranges until you have 2 Tbsp of finely grated zest (usually 1 orange will net 1 Tbsp of zest). Juice the oranges for 1-1/2 C fresh orange juice. It’s easier to zest first and juice second. Remember, the zest is the orange part of the peel only. If you hit the white, you are getting into the pith and that cooks up bitter.

With an electric mixer on medium high, cream Crisco®, orange zest and sugar. Scrape the bowl down as necessary. Add eggs and beat until well combined. Reduce the speed and slowly add the orange juice and mix until well combined.

Gently mix in the flour mixture. Then add the cranberries and nuts just until combined. DO not over mix. There may be a few lumps other than the berries and nuts and that’s ok. The batter will be very thick.

Pour into prepared pans and bake for 50 – 60 minutes (depending on your pans) until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool 15 minutes in the pans before turning out.


Perfect Pecan Pie

I love a pie. I especially love pecan pie (and for the record I say PEEcan, not puh-khan). Frankly too often pecan pie is really sugary and way too sweet. Soooo, I reworked an old recipe to reduce the sugary-ness and increase the flavor and each time I serve it, it’s a hit. With the baking season upon us and potlucks galore, enjoy this. The end result LOOKS way more complicated than it is. This is a recipe that doubles easily so you can make 2 at the same time. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or drizzle with cold heavy cream. Each slice (1/8 of a pie can be warmed in a microwave oven in about 15 seconds) prior to serving.

Pecan Pie

makes one 9” pie

3 Tbsp unsalted butter – DO NOT substitute margarine.

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

¾ C sugar

3 eggs

¾ C dark Karo® corn syrup

¼ C molasses (either regular or robust – depending on your taste)

2/3 C chopped pecans

A heavy pinch of salt

Pecan halves to decorate the top

1 unbaked 9” pie crust


Preheat oven to 450. Roll out pie crust and have it ready to go.

Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat first 3 ingredients until light and fluffy. It will not look like the beginning of cookie dough; it will be more granular. Reduce speed and add eggs one at a time until well incorporated, scraping bowl as necessary. Reduce speed again and gradually add first the corn syrup and then the molasses, scraping bowl as necessary. Fold in chopped pecans.

Pour into pie crust and bake for 10 minutes at 450. A crisp shell will develop on top while the middle stays syrupy. CAREFULLY remove from oven and reduce temp to 350. Decorate the top of your pie with the pecan halves. They will sink into the filling a bit as it continues to cook.

Return to oven and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until set. Cool completely on wire rack before cutting. If you cut it while hot it will ooze all over the place. It needs to cool completely to allow the sugars to set up.

See how the top is puffed up? It will sink down and flatten out as it cools.

See how the top is puffed up? It will sink down and flatten out as it cools.

Guilty Pleasure #3 – McCall Humes Shares a Recipe

McCall Humes is a fellow blogger and lives right here in Fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada. Her blog McCall of the Wild is always a fun read. In addition to being a blogger, she is also “Pinterest Influencer” – yes, it’s a real job! Check out her Pinterest – tons of cool stuff there! I asked her to share her Guilty Pleasure. She dishes and shares a family recipe below.  All photos are hers with many thanks.

When LeAnne asked me to write a guest post about guilty pleasures, my first instinct was to get drunk on whiskey and ramble on about my deep love of Jameson. But as I visualized how the post might go, it seemed quite probable it could become something I felt great about until the light of the next day. I became fearful that the post could end up like whenever Jameson and I join forces in karaoke night. At the time, he convinces me that my impromptu adaptation of “Papa Don’t Preach” was next-level brilliant, but then a Facebook video inevitably proves otherwise.  As this is my first introduction to you, I suppose it is inappropriate to suggest that you could just join me in doing shots so as to ensure that you appreciate what I have to offer. But, for the record, that is usually the case at the karaoke bar. Instead, I will leave my idea for an ode to whiskey here and move on to my next post idea: my love of food.

I’m not gonna lie. It’s difficult to narrow this down. I mean, pretty much all food brings me pleasure and most of what I eat isn’t what those in the know would call ‘healthy.’ A lot of you might consider a late night Taco Bell run a guilty pleasure. I just call it Tuesday’s dinner. I guess it’s easier for me to narrow it down by focusing on the word “guilty” rather than “pleasure.”

It’s probably a commentary on my youth that when I think of the word “guilty,” the next thing that comes to mind is “sneaky.” Rather than dwelling on why that is, I’m just gonna jump over it and admit that I am currently completely guilty of sneaking Nutella into my house. Somewhere here in the house (I can’t say where or I’d have to kill you) there is a jar of Nutella that no one but me knows exists. Mind you, it is not hidden because I fear the opinions of my family members about my eating that shit straight from the jar. No. This is strictly because Momma doesn’t want to share.

A blog post about how often I smuggle spoonfuls of Nutella seems a little anti-climactic.  So I have decided that, as a tribute to this hidden gem of happiness, I will share with ya’ll the recipe that started my love affair with desserts that combine chocolate and nuts: My mom’s peanut butter bars.

I’ve never shared a recipe before so if it’s challenging to follow, I ask that you forgive Jameson. His heart is in the right place.

Momma McCall’s Mom’s Peanut Butter Bars

Momma McCall's Peanut Butter Bars

¼ cup peanut butter

½ cup shortening

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup sugar

1 egg

½ tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

1 cup oatmeal

1 tsp salt

½ tsp baking soda

¼ cup milk


Preheat oven to 350

Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

Cream together shortening, peanut butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add egg and vanilla and mix until well combined. Add dry mixture and milk to egg mixture, alternating until well combined.

Scoop the mixture into a 9 x 13 casserole dish and create an even layer (Or use a 9 x 9 to make a thicker bar. Be sure to adjust bake time.). Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. When the bars are fully cooked they will be golden brown. A toothpick stuck through the middle of them should come out clean.

While the bars are cooking, mix together the frosting using:


2 cups powdered sugar

¼ c cocoa powder

3 Tbsp butter

½ tsp vanilla

2-3 Tbsp water (use only enough to make the mixture moist, not runny.)

While they are still warm, spread the frosting evenly across the top. The heat of the bars will melt the frosting making it easy to spread.

Let cool and enjoy!

I hope that y’all enjoy these yummy Peanut Butter Bars as much as I do. Just be careful. This is a proven gateway snack. If you aren’t careful, you too could wind up hiding jars of Nutella around your house.


Division of Assets