Friday, May 8, 2015

Clean Karma has officially launched!

Hi friends!

I have some exciting but sad news...I’m transiting this lovely blog into a new lifestyle blog called Clean Karma. Although I still enjoy all things food & beverage, I’m getting older and finding a new balance in life. You’ll still enjoy lots of yummy food porn and recipes but now with a slightly healthier spin. Clean Karma will include recipes, healthy tips and tricks, beauty and travel. I hope you all enjoy and thank you so much for over 2 great years with Eat Up, Drink Up!

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Whipping up some of my Nutty Dark Chocolate Nourishing Bars. Recipe on Clean Karma to come! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Recipe Alert! Homemade Chicago-Style Pizza

Our first attempt at homemade Chicago-Style pizza was a winner. Pizza is literally my favorite food so when Ryan mentioned testing out our new deep dish pan for Easter dinner with the fam, I was totally in. The pizza was fantastic. The best thing about pizza (to me anyways) is that you can make it your own. Throw in any and all of your favorite toppings/fillings and let the magic happen. The following recipe combined with a really great deep dish pan (see link above as this is the exact pan we have) created a ridiculously awesome pizza. I must admit I’ve never had pizza in Chicago... sad I know. I’ve actually only had Chicago-Style in NYC (see Emmett’s) but I imagine it couldn't be much better than this...I hope to make this determination sooner than later. Until I can make it back to the Windy City, this recipe will certainly do.

FYI-this is a more intense recipe than I would usually post. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time. The whole process, including letting the dough rise, will take you about 2-3 hours.

The Kocher’s Homemade Chicago-Style Pizza

Yields 2 (12in) Deep Dish Pizzas

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, coarsely crushed
1 tablespoon dry red wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced
8 ounces soppressata, sliced
8 ounces mushrooms, wiped clean and thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, cored and cut into thin rings
1 yellow onion, cut into thin rings
1 pound crumbled sweet Italian sausage
1 cup grated Parmesan

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza Dough:

1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus 2 teaspoons to grease bowl
1 teaspoon salt


Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza Dough:
In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar and stir to combine. 
Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the semolina, 1/2 cup of the oil, and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated but the dough is still slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes. Oil a large mixing bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil.

Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Divide into 2 equal portions and use as follows...

While the dough is rising, make the tomato sauce. In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the herbs, seeds, salt, and black and red peppers, and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, wine and sugar, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 20 to 30 minutes. 
Remove from heat and let cool before using. 

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.

Oil 2 seasoned 12-inch round deep-dish pizza pans with the extra-virgin olive oil. Press 1 piece of dough into each pan, pressing to the edge and stretching about 1 1/2 inches up the sides. 
Let rest for 5 minutes.

Layer the mozzarella cheese all over the bottom of the pies. Top each with half of the soppressata, mushrooms, bell pepper rings, onions, and sausage. 
Ladle the sauce evenly over each pizza and top with Parmesan.

Bake until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes. 

Optional: Take a paper towel and blot the top of the pizza carefully. 
Some moisture and/or grease will surface and this will help dry everything out.

Slice & serve hot.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Healthy, Creamy and Vegan: Avocado Pesto

I LOVE pasta with cream sauce... I mean, who doesn't love pasta with cream sauce? Alfredo, vodka, pestos... the cheesy and creamier the better right? Well, if you're trying to maintain a sudo healthy diet and your girlish/boyish figure, not so much. 

Avocado Pesto is a dream. It’s beyond healthy for you when made properly. Avocados are full of healthy fats, dietary fiber and are an excellent source of potassium (containing more per weight than bananas). In addition, avocados are rich in vitamin K, vitamin B9, vitamin B6, vitamin B5 vitamin C, and vitamin E2. Add in olive oil, fresh garlic & some healthy veggies and you’ve created an oh so good for you, gourmet meal. Best of all, this recipe takes about 15 minutes to make including cooking your pasta noodles. You can also use this amazing pesto on meats, toasts or as a dipping sauce for hearty breads and/or cut veggies. 

When I’d first read about Avocado Pesto, I immediately started researching recipes. It’s a fairly easy process but there are quite a few recipes out there. After playing around a bit, I’ve found this to be our favorite. Even Ryan loved it! And quite honesty he made it the best...he added fresh mozzarella cheese...:-)

My Amazing Avocado Pesto
4 servings

1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
1 c fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 c pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 organic lemon
4 T extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste ( have a good amount of salt on hand )
Water as needed
2 c fresh, organic spinach, packed
16 oz fresh pasta, cooked 
(You can use gluten-free noodles as well. We love thick fettuccine noodles!) 
1 organic tomato, diced

Preparation: Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor or blender. With the machine running, stream in lemon juice, 3 T olive oil and water as needed to achieve a smooth and creamy pesto. Season with salt (do NOT be shy) & pepper. 

In a large pan, heat the remaining 1 T of olive oil and sauté 2 cups of spinach until just wilted. 
Add pesto and cooked pasta. Toss well. Garnish with diced tomatoes. If you’re not going the vegan route, feel free to throw in some grated parmesan or fresh mozzarella cheese. 

Go nuts and get creative!

My meis and plas...ya gotta be prepared. 

Soooooooo creamy you'd swear we added dairy. We didn’t.

Voilà! An incredibly healthy, gourmet meal that's beyond satisfying. Enjoy!

Eat Up!  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

China Part Three: Shanghai

This post is all about dumplings (and a really delicious pork belly;-)). 

Shanghai is a completely different city than Beijing. It’s very westernized, modern & most people speak English...some would say this is a good thing, others not so good. Ryan and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience all the same. Shanghai is known for their dim sum (dumplings), particularly soup dumplings otherwise known as Xiao long bao. As we’re both dim sum lovers, we were psyched to eat up. Everything.

While at The Bund (A lovely, waterfront area in Shanghai with amazing views and fabulous restaurants and hotels. Very swank.), we went for drinks at The Waldorf Astoria. We befriended one of the managers who’s friend worked at nearby Hakkasan. I was familiar with the place as the group has multiple locations, including one in NYC. He made a call and we were able to nail down the best seat in the house with stunning views of Pudong’s Pearl Tower. The environment was trendy, slightly clubby but super fun. The food was very good. The whole experience fantastic. They made us feel like super stars. Ryan still claims they have the best dumplings...ever. For a “fancy” evening out in Shanghai, I would definitely recommend paying a visit. 

Another incredible place was Yang’s Fry Dumplings. Lucky for us, this spot was located just a short walk from our hotel. Yang’s is no frills. A few simple seats. Very cheap and beyond good. Think puffy fried dumplings filled with a flavorful, soupy mix of pork, vegetables and/or shrimp. If you go to one dumpling spot while in Shanghai, go here! They also have a nice menu of soups and noodles. We just stuck with the fried dumplings. Beware: VERY long lines.

We were lucky enough to have time for a day trip to nearby Suzhou. Suzhou is a pretty little town known as “the Venice of the East”. It’s a city on water. We even got to experience a gondola ride! While walking through the town, we found several dumpling tables serving up the craziest dim sum I’ve ever seen. Everything from the traditional three-color to insane animal and flower shapes; roses, pigs, name it! Best of all, each dumpling was about 25 cents. I dig the cheap eats. If you have time for a day trip while in Shanghai, try to fit Suzhou into your schedule.  

Our Steamed Dim Sum Platter from Hakkasan
Scallop siew mai, har gau, chive dumpling and roast duck mushroom. Amazing.  

Hakkasan’s Crispy pork belly with wolfberry and mustard sauce. 
If they had this dish at the New York location, we would be there weekly. 

Of course Ryan felt the need to get dessert. The Chocolate Sphere. 

Yang’s Fry Dumplings. Epic. About $2 for an entire order. Four huge, puffy (yet crispy), soup filled pork and/or shrimp dumplings. A must-try. 

Hanging in Old Town. Doesn’t everyone sip soup dumplings with a straw?!

Our dumpling guy in Suzhou. All sorts of different dumplings in many shapes and sizes. 
Check out the little piggy’s & ducky’s!

Chī qǐlái! ("EAT UP!" in Chinese) ;-)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

China: Beijing Part Two

Beijing Part Two. This post covers the wide span of cuisine types and price ranges dining in Beijing has to offer. First up, Chef Brian McKenna's Courtyard. Located by the Forbidden City, the restaurant is in a perfect location with limited views of the city walls. The reviews I read prior to going raved about how fabulous the views are. We had the best table in the house (thank you Tana!), but the views were just ok...however the food and presentation did live up to the hype. 

Chef McKenna blends Mediterranean and Western influences with subtle Asian flavors. The menu gives the guest a choice of course numbers and then the kitchen does the rest. Very Blue Hill at Stone Barns. We decided on the 5-course prix-fixe, which clocked in at about $100 per person just for the food. The cocktail and wine prices are also on an upscale, Westernized level.

Our dinner was wonderful. Ryan and I dined with my parents so it was a true treat. Even my father was impressed. The whole "pricey, small bites, many courses thing" isn't usually his bag. They started us off with fresh, homemade bread and butter and then continued with 5 innovative, well-plated dishes. Please see images and descriptions below. If in Beijing, I would highly suggest a visit. They only have about 8 tables and no bar so make your reservations in advance and come prepare to spend some $$$.

The Beijing Night Market. Famous for selling yummy street dumplings and noodles as well as all things strange and buggy. The major draw are the fried scorpions...yes, fried scorpions (ekkkkkkkk). Check out the crazy pictures below. Starfish, grubs, seahorses, skinned name it, they have it. We chickened out and didn’t try anything extreme. Instead, we noshed on scrumptious fried dumplings, octopus and pineapple rice. One of my favorite items was a savory veggie pancake. Yummy! My parents weren’t feeling the street food so much so we had to pop into another restaurant afterwards but the Night Market is still a must. Best part? Most items are no more than a dollar or two. 

Beijing, China is well suited for people in the mood for cheap eats OR an elevated dining experience. Enjoy!


Smoked Salmon with Green Apple Crema & crispy, cheese crackers. Loving the presentation...

...speaking of presentation. This is a bowl of crab salad with cucumber and vinegar. The top? A sugar shell! We were instructed to crack the shell into the bowl. When we did (to our delight), the sugar melted into the crab salad and gave the dish a yummy sweetness. My dad was thrilled!

Seafood "pasta". The noodles were actually made of squid. No carb, all protein.

I'm not a usually a salmon OR foie gras fan BUT this plate changed the game. 
The combo of both was deliciously rich, creamy and satisfying. Fabulous.

This dessert was a green apple custard with vanilla ice cream. The dessert was tasty but the best part was obviously the presentation. Chef creates a green apple (clearly green apple is the inspiration this evening) candy mold then fills it with the custard. Pretty cool.


We loved our noodle guy. 

Beautiful fried pork dumplings.

Bugs galore!


Monday, March 9, 2015

China: Beijing Part One

Tired and still jet lagged, we’re back from a long 10 day vacation to the far east. Beijing, Shanghai and the small town of Suzhou. It was an incredible experience. In all of my travels, this was my first trip to Asia and I have to say that it was nothing short of epic. The food, of course, was one of the many highlights. I will start with a few of our Beijing hits as this was our first stop. With so many food adventures, this is only part one. Stay tuned for part two which will include the swanky Courtyard and "all things bugs" at Beijing’s infamous Night Market. 

We arrived ready to eat. Our first stop was actually a small fast-food type Chinese spot near our hotel. It was late and we were hungry. No one spoke any English, there was no english on the menu and virtually no pictures. We like to go local. The fish/veggie dish with rice we ended up getting was surprisingly awesome and only cost about 3 American dollars. Ok, so far so good. In between seeing all the phenomenal historic sites and wonders Beijing had to offer, my mom was dying to hit up the “Fake” Market. This 6 story complex is full of everything from clothes, leather goods, jewelry, sunglasses and of course, a plethora of very convincing fake designer bags. On the top floor of this famous market sits a food court. This food court was bad ass and had everything from local cuisine to Indian food to pizza. I immediately headed for the dumpling counter while my mom and Ryan settled on noodles. My dad, a Jim Beam and Diet Coke...he’s not really into Chinese food. ;-) My dumplings were made fresh right in front of me. This took some time but the wait was worth it. Ryan loved his spicy noodles so much he wanted to come back the next day and although my mom didn’t love her noodle bowl...Ryan and I helped her finish it off. They were good. See the image below...good right?! All of the noodles were homemade and the broths were full of flavor. 

One of the highlights of our trip was our planned dinner at Made in China. Known for their open kitchens, spectacular decor and tender Peking Duck, it’s a must-try when in Beijing. This spot is located in the Grand Hyatt so expect Westernized prices and all the comforts of home (i.e. a detailed wine list, american liquors, etc). We started with Pork Dumplings and Egg & Pork Belly with dan dan mian (made from one long, fresh noodle). Even my dad was a happy camper with all of this pork goodness. Our mid-course was their Peking Duck. Served with all of the traditional accompaniments, they did offer one stand out addition. A small bowl of white sugar. We were instructed by our server to dip the crispy duck skin into the sugar and eat this alone. The sugar and duck skin combo literally melts in your mouth. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but not being a sweet flavor fan, I moved on to assembling my Peking Duck wraps. Ryan and my dad however, thought this combination was the greatest thing since sliced bread.  We then chowed down on their Waygu Beef and String Bean entrees and finished off the meal with a dessert sampler. A fantastic experience.

One of our lunch stops was actually at a Korean restaurant. Korean BBQ is huge in both Beijing and Shanghai. My dad needed some meat in his life and Ryan was "jonesing" for more noodles so the hilariously named "Yummy Kiss" Korean restaurant fit the bill. My dad and I split the BBQ Rib Sampler. Ribs marinated in 5 different ways...YUM. I was a little disappointed as this place did not serve wines by the glass and the service was underwhelming. But the food was good none the less. Apparently, westernized wine has only become popular in China in the last five years and still hasn't made it’s mark. It’s cool. I can roll with rice wine in a pinch. 

Please enjoy the following food porn from Beijing and stand by for Part 2! If you have any questions or have a trip planned, feel free to comment or message me. 

Delicious pork and vegetable fried dumplings at the “Fake” Market. 

My mom’s spicy vegetable noodles. She gave them a 5, I would’ve given them an 8. Very good. 

One of Made in China’s fabulous Peking Duck Chefs carving up the goods. 

The spread. Notice the little bowl of sugar. 

Our smorgasbord of desserts. Amazing. 

Our BBQ rib sampler at a Korean restaurant in Beijing. English translation of the name of the restaurant?...The Yummy Kiss..(we literally laughed out loud;-))

Eat Up Everywhere!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hungry for Neapolitan-style pizza? Porto is the real deal.

As most of you readers may already know, Ryan grew up in New Jersey so we’re often in the North Bergen/Edgewater area (right across the river on the hills), where my in-laws live. The restaurants in these neighborhoods are pretty amazing. My in-laws told us about a new pizza place that just opened up, Porto. A tiny little BYOB spot serving up true Neapolitan-style pizza. I’ve been to Italy several times so my expectations were high. 

The menu is predominately pizza with some great appetizer/salad options and a couple pastas. We decided to stick with apps and then enjoy the pizza as the main event. They had fresh Burrata on the menu which made my life. I naturally added Prosciutto to this dish. Best.combo.ever. Ryan ordered the Kale Salad which was awesome. The Kale was crunchy but not bitter in the least. The dressing creamy, like a ranch or caesar and the salad is topped with tangy grated parmesan and thick pancetta. Heaven. The pizza...ahhhhh the pizza. It’s exactly like what you would have in Italy. A soft, thin crust with just the right amount of cheese and toppings. The flavors are beyond fresh. The chef/owner Antonio has worked in NYC and traveled Italy studying different forms of pizza making...hence his insanely authentic flavors. 

Unfortunately we were too full for dessert but FYI, they have Fried Oreos on the menu. I’ll def be saving room next time...

Anyone for a trip to NJ? ;-) 

My to-die-for Prosciutto De Parma & fresh Burrata with cherry tomatoes. I could eat this every day.

The best Kale Salad, like, ever. 

Real, Neapolitan-Style pizza from Chef Antonio. Welcome to Jersey!

Eat Up!