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Last year, the cost of food items for a traditional Thanksgiving meal was at its lowest since 2010, according to Arizona Farm Bureau. This year, it is predicted to be just a little lower, with the falling price of some grocery items credited to tariffs as farmers lose their overseas markets.

Consumer Price Index: The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs fell 1.0 percent in September, with all its major component indexes falling. The fruits and vegetables index also fell, declining 0.5 percent. The index for dairy and related products declined 0.3 percent.

2017                           2018
16-pound turkey                           $22.38                       $23.68
Milk (gallon)                                 $2.99                          $2.19
Rolls (dozen)                                 $2.26                          $2.28
Pie shells (2) 9-inch                     $2.45                          $1.98
Sweet potatoes (3 lb.)                  $3.52                          $2.74
Green peas (1 lb.)                         $1.53                           $2.38
Whipping cream                           $2.08                         $2.58
Bread stuffing (14 oz.)                 $2.81                          $2.98
Pumpkin pie mix                          $3.21                          $2.98
Fresh cranberries (12 oz.)           $2.43                          $1.72
Veggie tray (1 lb.)                         $6.74                           $6.28
TOTAL                                            $52.80                        $51.79

(serves 10)

submitted photos

Today is the grand opening of the newest restaurant at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

Chop Block & Brew has dining and a lounge. The design was influenced by an art and design committee appointed by Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel.

submitted photo

“The Community’s history and culture is depicted in the architecture, artwork and colors throughout the restaurant,” said Robert Livingston, general manager and regional president of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

The restaurant serves lunch and dinner, with gourmet burgers, steaks, prime rib and seafood. The full bar has more than 30 draft and bottled craft beers, cocktails and premium whiskey and scotch.

Livingston said the restaurant “offers the perfect blend of an upscale dining experience with the first-class customer service our valued guests have come to expect here at Harrah’s Ak-Chin.”

One of its signatures is a wood-burning mesquite grill.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin is part of Caesar’s Entertainment. The casino continues its multimillion-dollar expansion. That expansion has already included the opening of a parking garage, Oak & Fork restaurant and a pedestrian bridge to UltraStar Multi-tainment Center. It will soon include a spa and conference center and 200 more hotel rooms.

“We take pride in offering our guests a comfortable and inviting entertainment experience,” Livingston said.

At 3,454 square feet, Chop Block & Brew has seating for 159. It features Native American-inspired artwork and design elements that highlight the culture and traditions of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

Chop Block & Brew service schedule:

Restaurant Hours:
Thursday through Sunday: Noon-3 p.m.

Sunday through Thursday: 4-9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 4-10 p.m.

Lounge Hours:
Sunday through Thursday: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11 a.m. – midnight

Two of 16 restaurants inspected by the Pinal County Health Department between April 16 and May 15 were cited for cold-holding infractions.

The inspector observed at Aliberto’s Mexican Food a walk-in refrigerator holding food between 43 and 46 degrees F. Safety requires food in refrigerators to be held at 41 degrees F or lower. Repairs were made to the refrigerator during inspection.

Cilantro’s Mexican Cocina also had a faulty refrigerator. The inspector recorded an ambient temperature of 54 degrees F. Some items were moved temporarily to an ice bath while the restaurant awaited a replacement refrigerator.

EXCELLENT [No violations found]

Barro’s Pizza
Brooklyn Boy’s Italian Restaurant & Pizza
CVS Pharmacy
The Duke at Rancho El Dorado
Fry’s Marketplace
Fry’s Marketplace – Deli
Fry’s Marketplace – Sushi
Li’s Garden
Panda Express
Raceway Bar & Grill
Rob’s Convenience
True Grit Tavern
Walmart – Deli

SATISFACTORY [Violations corrected during inspection]

Cilantro’s Mexican Cocina

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT [Critical items noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately requiring follow-up inspection]


UNACCEPTABLE [Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of service]


This item appears in the June issue of InMaricopa.

Good Donuts

One Maricopa eatery among those inspected by Pinal County’s health department from March 15 to April 15 did not receive an excellent score.

Good Donuts was requested to fix or replace a refrigerator that was not keeping items at the required 41 degrees F or lower. Several items, such as milk, eggs and cheese, were measured at 49F. The inspector also noted washed but not sanitized blender containers and a bucket for wiping cloths on a work table. The establishment was given an “N” rating, a step below satisfactory. Its previous two inspections had earned satisfactory and excellent marks.

Excellent [No violations found]
99 Cents Only Store
Butterfield Elementary
Central Arizona College – Culinary
Circle K, 18141 N. John Wayne Parkway
Desert Wind Middle School
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Domino’s Pizza
Francisco’s Mexican Food
Gyro Grill
Helen’s Kitchen
Jack in the Box
Jersey Mike’s Subs
Maricopa Head Start
Maricopa High School
Maricopa Wells Middle School
Papa John’s Pizza
Pima Butte Elementary
Pizza Hut
Plaza Bonita
Province Community Association Clubhouse
Santa Cruz Elementary
Santa Rosa Elementary
Sonic Drive-In
Sunrise Cafe
Taco Bell
Water and Ice

Satisfactory [Violations corrected during inspection]

Needs Improvement [Critical items noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately requiring follow-up inspection]
Good Donuts

Unacceptable [Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of service]

This item appears in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Julia Perugini with husband Charlie and their daughter Sophia with holiday fare in their Maricopa kitchen. Photo by Mason Callejas

When it comes to following your dreams, one Maricopa resident knows sometimes you have to take a chance, and that sometimes, that risk yields great rewards.

Check out Julia Perugini’s recipe for Brazilian carrot cake below.

This month, 34-year-old Julia Perugini will be featured on Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge. As part of the challenge, she will face off with three other cookie makers from across the country, to compete for a $10,000 cash prize.

Online, she has developed a sizable amount of fanfare and demand for her cookies and cakes, shipping most of her stock out of state. Thanks to social media, she has been able to market and sell her tasty treats, and she has caught the eye of several major players in the baking world, including producers at the Food Network.

The Food Network describes the series: “Host Eddie Jackson welcomes five fabulously festive cookie makers into Santa’s workshop. Judges Kimberly Bailey, Damiano Carrara and Ree Drummond are on hand to taste the creations and decide who will leave the North Pole $10,000 richer.”

Perugini’s professional life began far from the kitchen.

“Some people believe you have to pursue a job as a doctor or lawyer, or something professional,” Julia said. “So, that’s what I did.”

A native of Brazil, Julia actually holds a degree in engineering and spent several years working for mineral exploration companies in her home country, including at sites deep inside the Amazon rainforest.

Julia as a young girl in Brazil. Submitted photo

Like the United States, Brazil was hit by the economic recession of 2008, so she took a chance. Using her savings, she decided to emigrate to the United States via New York, where she hoped to learn more English.

Despite her degree, she found it hard to find work in the Big Apple, something she blamed on her not-so-refined ability to speak the language. So, she took on jobs as a nanny before embracing the skills she had honed growing up in Brazilian kitchens around her home town of Belo Horizonte.

“Originally when she started, it was because she was helping her friend plan a party,” her husband Charlie said. “And then she started doing a little bit here and there and it just kind of picked up.”

Julia and Charlie met shortly after she arrived in New York, and they were married about a year later.

Over the next six years she worked in kitchens throughout the New York area, working in all positions from a short order cook all the way up to private gigs cooking for ritzy families in the Hamptons.

Though her skills cover both the sweet and savory sides of the pallet, her true passion is sweets: “I can cook everything. There is just something about it [cookies and cupcakes] I really love.”

Julia in New York City. Submitted photo

Perugini eventually decided to go into business for herself, baking cookies and cakes. However, with such tight regulations on homebased businesses, she quickly realized New York was not the best launching pad for her dreams.

Pregnant with their daughter Sophia in 2016, Julie and Charlie decided to move someplace easier to pursue her dreams and better suited for their expanding family.

“My husband always liked Arizona and convinced me that here was the best place to live,” she said.

After briefly living in Ahwatukee, the family found the right house in Maricopa and built the business.

Photo by Mason Callejas

“I’m really proud of her,” Charlie said. “She’s basically started from nothing and its almost doubled each year [since].”

Customer Annie Smith said Julia’s Cookies were perfect for her son’s second birthday. “These were adorable and delicious. They were flawless, individually wrapped and arrived right on time. I couldn’t be happier.”

Reviewers also have noted her attention to detail, taste and professionalism.

Not long after settling into their new home, she got word she had been selected for the Christmas Cookie Challenge on the Food Network.

Several years earlier, while living in New York, she had signed up for a similar Food Network competition but never heard anything back. Then in early 2017 she got a call asking if she was interested.

Perugini’s episode will air Dec. 11, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Arizona time.


Instagram: at juliascookiesnyc; Etsy: JuliasCookies

Julia’s Brazilian Carrot Cake

“This is the most traditional Brazilian cake,” Julia said, “it’s very soft, fluffy and delicious!”


  • 3 carrots
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 oz vegetable oil
  • 8 oz sugar
  • 9 oz all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder

Add all wet ingredients plus sugar to blender or mixer until creamy.

Add the flour and blend a little more.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in baking powder gently with a whisk.

Place in a round baking pan, or any baking pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes at 350 F

Chocolate Frosting:

  • 3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoon honey

Place in a medium sized pan over medium heat mixing until all ingredients combine and are a caramel-like consistency.

Pour over the cake.


This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.

Though still not extremely healthy, turkey bacon can be a substitute for pork bacon. Submitted photo

By Claire Bullivant

Claire Bullivant
Claire Bullivant

Bacon is to savory food what chocolate is to the dessert world.

If you put bacon into a meal, people’s eyes light up. It has much the same effect as adding chocolate chips to cookies. Case in point – would the lettuce and tomato sandwich have made it to fame without the B in the BLT? Most of us agree bacon’s crispy combination of salty, fatty meatiness is delicious.

Nevertheless, opinions on the health properties of bacon vary widely. Some proponents say about half the fats in bacon are healthy, brushing over the fact that the other half is saturated fats and that 68 percent of calories in these strips of pig are fat.

Research shows eating high levels of saturated fats can be a contributing factor to heart disease and stroke.

I’m definitely in the minority of people who don’t eat pork bacon. But I do offer turkey bacon in my shop in various dishes. Turkey bacon, while not being a superfood by any standard, still has the salty meatiness people crave without so much of the bad stuff. And if a slice if turkey bacon makes that gluten-free spinach muffin go down a little easier – why not?

Despite the apparently healthy fats and nutritional value in the meat, there are some people for whom bacon of any kind is a no-no. According to the Gerson Institute, consuming animal fats and salt is part of a killer combination to create a breeding ground for cancer cells. Dr. Max Gerson discovered that by drinking cold-pressed juices and cutting down on salt and animal fats among other techniques, the body can sometimes rid itself of cancer – that’s what propelled us into bottling cold-pressed juices.

So, should we outlaw this undeniable love affair with salty, fatty meat? The sad fact is, most people will be willing to do it only after they get sick.

Claire Bullivant is the owner of Bead & Berry Coffee Shop.

This column appears in the September issue of InMaricopa.

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Plaza Bonita was among five Maricopa restaurants that had temporary problems with cold-holding.

Five Maricopa eateries had to fix issues in the latest round of health inspections by the Pinal County Health Department. However, the city’s three big supermarkets passed with flying colors and were among 19 receiving excellent scores.

The five marked “satisfactory” all had trouble with properly cooling food. Cilantro’s was nicked for not having proper hot and cold holding temperatures, employees drinking from cups with no lids, undated food in the refrigerator and improper storage of utensils. Great Wall’s infractions were not having food protection manager certification, uncovered food in the refrigerator and freezer, a refrigerator without proper cold-holding temperature, unlabeled food, food items stored in grocery bags and food debris in refrigerator prep table pans and doors. Plaza Bonita also had a prep table with improper cold-holding temperature and a bathroom trash can without a lid. Tacos ‘n’ More was cited for improper cooling time and temperature. The New HQ received ticks for having no food handler cards or food manager cards available, improper cooling temperatures and having bowls and ladles mixed in with uncooked dry goods.

EXCELLENT [No violations found]
Bashas’ – Bakery
Bashas’ Deli
Bashas’ – Starbucks
Carl’s Jr.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Firehouse Subs
Fry’s Marketplace
Fry’s Marketplace – Bakery
Fry’s Marketplace – Deli
Fry’s Marketplace – Starbucks
Fry’s Marketplace – Sushi
Jack in the Box
Native Grill & Wings
Taco Bell
Walmart – Bakery
Walmart – Deli
Walmart – McDonald’s

SATISFACTORY [Violations corrected during inspection]
Cilantro’s Mexican Cocina
Great Wall Chinese Restaurant
Plaza Bonita
Tacos ‘n’ More
The New HQ

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT [Critical item noted during inspection cannot be corrected immediately, requiring follow-up inspection]

UNACCEPTABLE [Gross, unsanitary conditions necessitating the discontinuation of operations]

This article appeared in the September issue of InMaricopa.

Dehydrated vegetables can become objects of craving with the right seasoning and dips. Submitted photo

By Claire Bullivant

Claire Bullivant
Claire Bullivant

How many of us never grab a candy bar to get us out of dire straits? If you’re like me, you want to eat healthily and get sporadic spurts of good intentions. You enthusiastically buy organic beets to roast when you get home …  and then …. life happens, and three weeks later and you’re surprised to find a watery bag of unidentified vegetable goop in the depths of the refrigerator.

Introducing my new love – the dehydrator! Dehydrating fruits and veggies means you always have a healthy snack on hand. Plus, if you sprinkle your favorite spice mix on them, you will literally find yourself craving these tasty morsels – take them to the office, have them in the car, handbag, wherever.

Here are my tips:

1) Plan time and guard it. Let’s face it, kids, jobs, spouses, wannabe and ex- spouses, friends, pets, hormones, other people’s hormones are all going to suck up any time that isn’t resolutely protected.
2) Do it anyway. You don’t need a dehydrator. Use your oven. You don’t need to have done it before. Watch a few YouTube videos and use what you have in your pantry plus your imagination. Mix and match your favorite spices and experiment with small batches. Only buy the veggies and fruit when you know you have time.
3) The dip/dressing. How much you enjoy the dip will somewhat determine whether you keep coming back for more veggies. Use healthy oils such as avocado or coconut and fancy them up with a teaspoon of decadent truffle oil (oh my, this oil is so delicious). Or just eat them plain instead of potato chips.

Next month I’m gonna get decadent with my chocolaty, lemony guilt-reduced desserts made with local farm or organic ingredients. Mmmmmh.

Claire Bullivant is the owner of Bead and Berry Coffee House, which is on hiatus for the summer.

This column appeared in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Cooling down leftovers rapidly is a key to keeping them safe to eat.

The Pinal County Public Health Services District, Environmental Health Services would like to wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. Holidays are times we share the kitchen with family and friends. With all the food being prepared as we celebrate, having leftover food is inevitable. Proper handling of leftover foods is one of the best things you can do to keep your family and friends safe from food-borne illness.

Put Foods Away Promptly

While everyone is busy celebrating, it is very easy to overlook the foods sitting on the counter or on the dinner table. Everyone is stuffed from their holiday meal and it can be difficult to find motivation to clean up. Also, there is a lot of temptation to leave foods out so we can nibble on them or so they may be available for guests who arrive late. The one thing that should be prioritized after the meal is to put the foods away. The “danger zone” is between 41°F and 135°F – the temperature range where food-borne bacteria multiply rapidly. The time that food sits on the counter should be minimized and certainly should not exceed two hours. Be sure your refrigerator holds a temperature at or below 41°F.

Safe Cooling

A lot of us assume that once food is put into the refrigerator that it is safe. Even after you put foods into the refrigerator it can still stay in the temperature danger zone for a significant period of time – allowing bacteria to multiply.  Cooling the food down rapidly is very important to prevent illness. Here are a few hints to help you cool down your foods rapidly. 1) Keep the portion sizes small. Try to limit the depth of leftover foods to less than four inches. Realize that the outside of the food will cool first, but it can still take quite a while for the interior to cool down. 2) Keep the food uncovered until it is cold. This allows the cold air to flow across the surface of the food.  The air flow is just as important as the temperature in cooling foods down. 3) Don’t overload your refrigerator. Ensure there is adequate space to allow for air to circulate around cooling foods. 4) Don’t hesitate to check food temperatures in your refrigerator after an hour or two to ensure that the food is cooling down rapidly.

Safe Reheating

Reheating is another important step in handling leftover foods. Use a food thermometer to ensure that leftovers are thoroughly heated. Make sure the food reaches a safe minimum internal temperature of 165°F. Bacteria can survive in leftovers that have not reached 165°F, possibly resulting in food-borne illness.  Also, keep in mind that if foods are left in the temperature danger zone too long, even reheating them thoroughly may not be enough to ensure the food will not cause an illness.

Use Leftovers Quickly

Use your leftovers promptly. They should either be eaten or frozen for later use within about four days. Incorporate your holiday leftovers into your meal plans and recipes. Some of the best parts of a holiday turkey are the turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, and turkey ‘al-la-king’ that many of us enjoy in the days after the main meal. As soon as you know you won’t have an immediate use for leftovers, put them in the freezer for later use. Frozen food will keep for much longer than refrigerated foods.

If In Doubt, Throw It Out

If you ever have any reason to feel that your food is not safe don’t hesitate to throw it away. The issues that cause disease in foods, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins, are not always apparent. They are typically colorless and odorless. Keep this food safety saying in mind, ‘If in doubt, throw it out!”

The Pinal County Public Health Services District has a goal to prevent disease, promote health, and provide nutrition services to the residents of Pinal County. Environmental Health Services conducts inspections of permitted facilities, monitors the community for disease vectors, and investigates public health nuisance complaints. If you would like more information on our programs, or to file a complaint, please visit our webpage at http://pinalcountyaz.gov/ehs or call 866-287-0209.

Sauteed lobster in vanilla vodka sauce

To honor his mother during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Executive Chef Colin Ribble of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino Resort shares his recipe for sautéed lobster in vanilla vodka sauce.

“It’s something my mother would eat, something that’s done for my mother,” Ribble said.

Ribble’s mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2010. He has been beside her through the whole process, cooked for her and helped shave her head even as he shaved his own.

“I would go over and make dinner for my mom, so it was one thing she didn’t have to worry about,” he said. “Food was always something that connected us.”

Lobster in a Vanilla Vodka Sauce, by Chef Colin Ribble

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot minced
2 tablespoons capers
½ cup vanilla vodka
1 raw lobster tail, cut into small pieces
½ cup plum tomatoes
½ cup heavy cream
sea salt to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
French Baguette Sliced and grilled

Melt the butter in a large sauté pan (12-14 inches). Stir in the red pepper flakes and cook about 1 minute over medium heat. Add the garlic/shallots and cook until soft. Stir in the capers and cook 1 minute longer. Raise the heat to medium high and add the vodka; allow most of it to evaporate. Stir in the lobster and lower the heat to medium. Add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Slowly pour in the cream along the side of the pan and cook over low heat for an additional 5 minutes.

A three-taco plate offers a variety of flavors at Cilantro’s Mexican Cocina. Photo by Donna Atkins

Winner: Cilantro’s Mexican Cocina

In an online poll at inMaricopa.com, readers were divided on who serves the best taco among the city’s food establishments. After a heated battle among several contenders, Cilantro’s edged out Tacos ‘N’ More by just 3 votes.

“Our tacos are good quality and homemade. Our cilantro sauce is very popular. We have tomatillo and, my favorite, spicy red sauce. The carne asada is gourmet with flour soft tortillas. And that’s why we have the best tacos in the city of Maricopa.” – Owner/chef Juan Quezada, Cilantro’s Mexican Cocina

Cilantro’s owner Juan Quezada. Photo by Donna Atkins

This story was published in the Fall Edition of InMaricopa The Magazine.

Poll results
Poll results