Once a year, when the weather starts to warm up, we plan a family field trip. We pack up the “kids” (mom and uncle) and head out on an all day adventure. This year our destination was Queen Creek, Arizona. Although, 1 1/2 hours from home may not seem that far; with two “adult children” in the backseat it can feel like an eternity.
Food usually plays a huge role in these trips. Within minutes some sort of snack is usually produced from the back seat. This trip was no different. Needing gas we stopped at the Circle K in our neighborhood…no more than 1/2 mile from our house. As my husband pumped the gas my uncle headed over to the girl scout table. Back in the car a few seconds later and the box of cookies began making the rounds. Oh it was going to be a long day!
Our first stop in Queen Creek was “The Pork Shop” As the name implies they sell all things pork. It’s a small store on the side of the road but it's jam packed both with pork products and customers. We got there around 1 pm and there was quite a line. This could mean trouble with the “kids” as they tend to get very impatient. The only thing keeping them calm was the multitude of samples being passed around. Definitely a nice touch to be able to try meats before purchasing. The people behind the counter were very knowledgeable and helpful when it came to the various cuts of meat. One of the men even offered up a recipe. It’s very unfortunate for us that The Pork Shop is so far away as I could see this being a regular stop on my weekly food outings.
Next up was the Queen Creek Olive Mill. I had heard a lot about this place and was eager to check it out. We purchased tickets for a late afternoon tour and decided to grab a bite to eat in the café while we waited. What a mistake. The line for food was long and very slow moving; and although we had almost an hour before our tour started we almost didn’t make it. We ordered a couple different sandwiches, a salad and a cup of soup. None of it is really worth talking about. The bread on the sandwiches was dry, the salad under dressed, and the soup tasteless. I have to say that things did not get better with the tour. We spent 15 minutes of the 30 minute tour seated outside barely able to hear the tour guide. The last 15 minutes we were led into the olive press room and directed to pictures on the wall that explained the process. Very lame tour and not worth the $5 per person.
Our last stop was Schnepf Farms where we were able to pick our own vegetables from their garden. What a great experience; although I’m not sure how much the kids liked it. We came home with bunches of spinach, romaine lettuce and broccoli crowns. I will admit that the pick your own is not easily accessible if you’re not in the best of shape. There's a small dropoff to get into the garden and a lot of small hills to maneuver around. I sure thought it was lots of fun.
Forty minutes into our drive home and we needed to get the kids fed. They are not happy campers when they are hungry. We stopped for dinner at Uncle Sal’s, a casual neighborhood “red sauce” restaurant in Scottsdale. Entrees run about $15-20 and all include a soup or salad and a side of garlic bread. Uncle Sal’s is nothing fancy just decent Italian American food in a cozy atmosphere. Everyone seemed satisfied enough with their meals and with bellies full the rest of the ride home was a breeze. We decided to have coffee and dessert back at our house since I had made a mocha marble bundt cake the day before.
It was almost 9 pm before the kids were finally back at their own house and I was exhausted. Thank goodness field trip day is only once a year.
Mocha-Walnut Marbled Bundt Cake Recipe
Adapted from: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground walnuts
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup coffee, hot or cold
1 tsp. finely ground instant coffee or instant espresso powder
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Use a 12 cup bundt pan. Don’t put it on a baking sheet – you want the heat to circulate through the Bundt’s inner tube.
Whisk together the flour, ground walnuts, baking powder and salt.
Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Put 2 tbps. of the butter into the bowl, along with the coffee, chocolate and instant coffee. Heat the mixture, stirring often, until melt and smooth and creamy. Remove from heat.
Beat together the remaining butter and the sugar at medium speed for about 3 minutes – you’ll have a thick paste; this won’t be light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, beating well after each addition. The mixture should look smooth and satiny. Beat in the vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients and the milk alternately, adding the dry in 3 portions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry).
Scrape a little less than half the batter into the bowl with the chocolate mixture and, using a spatula, blend thoroughly.
Either layer the two batters or alternate spoonfuls of light and dark batter in the pan. When all the batter is in the pan, swirl a knife sparingly through the batters to marble them.
Bake for 60-75 minutes or until a thin knife insereted deep into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the Bundt pan to a rack and let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool the cake completely on the rack.