How to Clean an Espresso Machine

The number of times your espresso machine gives you the perfect shot of coffee or froth foamy milk, every time the machine forms a layer of espresso debris, oils and mineral deposits. Thus, it becomes really important to clean the machine regularly and clean it chemically at least once a week.

Maintaining Your Machine After Daily Use

Scrub the portafilter and basket: Firstly, what you need to do is remove the basket from the portafilter. Take a nylon brush or scrubby pad and take out the grounds from the portafilter and basket. Wash both the parts with hot water and dry them with a clean towel. The basket is a metal filter screen that is placed within the portafilter.

Clean the gasket: Take the nylon brush again and insert it into the group to clean the gasket. Put some water in the group to wash away any remaining material.

Wash the screen and underside of the group: Look at the underside of the group and locate a screw. Now just loosen the screw with the help of a short screwdriver to remove the screen from the group. You can take a nylon brush or scrubby pad to clear away debris from each side of the screen. Also, scrub the interior of the group. Keep the screen back in place.

Backwash the machine: Insert a blind disk, a basket having no holes, into the portafilter. They lock the portafilter into the group. Now turn on the group and let it run for about 12 seconds. Empty the water by removing the portafilter and repeat the process again. Before you do so, go through the manual once to see if this kind of cleaning is recommended or not.

Sanitize the steam arm: If you don’t clean it, milk-proteins will start forming on the steam arm. After a time, the residue starts ruining the taste and clog the machine. If you don’t want this to happen, clean up your steam wand before and after use.

Clean the Gasket

Deep-Cleaning Your Machine Once a Week

Make the cleaning solution: You should chemically clean your best automatic espresso machine with a specially formulated cleaner at least once a week. Prepare a solution by mixing the espresso machine cleaner with fresh water.

Disassemble the machine for cleaning: Remove the portafilter from the machine. Also, take out the basket off the portafilter. Now detach the steam wand from the machine and remove the screen from the group using a small screwdriver. You can now easily clean all the parts using the solution to sanitize it chemically.

Soak the items in the solution: Allow the items to soak overnight by inserting them into the cleaning solution.

Scrub and rinse the items: Take out the items from the solution. If not all the espresso residue dissolves in the solution, you can scrub the items with the scrubbing pad. Clean the espresso machine parts with warm water.

cleaning basket

Descaling Your Machine

Prepare the descaling machine: After a time, mineral deposits from the water starts building up in the machine. To remove these deposits, you need to clean your espresso machine with commercial descaling solution after every three months. What you need to do is, fill the machine’s reservoir with fresh water. Mix the descaling solution to it.

Run the solution through the steam wand: Keep the container under the steam wand to collect the solution. Turn on the steam wand. Run approx. one cup of solution through the steam wand. Not turn off the steam wand. Let the espresso machine rest for about 20 minutes and by the time descaling solution will do its work.

Run the solution through the steam wand and group: Again keep the container under the steam wand. Turn the machine on and flush around ¼ cup solution through the steam wand. Now keep the container under the portafilter by turning off the steam wand. Turn on the group and flush around ¼ cup solution through the portafilter.

Turn off the machine and let it rest for another 20 minutes. By the time, the solution will continue to break down the mineral deposits.

Run rest of the solution through the machine: Turn on the machine after 20 minutes. Keep the container under the steam wand. Flush half of the remaining solution through the steam wand. Now move the container under the portafilter and turn on the group to drain the rest of the solution.

Flush the machine with fresh water: Lastly, fill the reservoir with fresh and clean water. Run clean water through steam wand and portafilter.

Flush the machine with fresh water

Stupidly Easy Breakfast Cookies

For some reason, I have been waking up at 7 am every day. I hate it. I used to rock out of bed around lunchtime, and then get on with my day. Now I’m up so early I’m not really sure what to do, especially because I still fall asleep so late. Luckily, it’s earlier than the 5 am I used to fall asleep at!

Because I’m so tired by the afternoon, I usually lose my motivation to cook and eat well. I want to grab the first bar of (raw) chocolate I can get my hands on! So I’ve started being super productive in the morning and making a lovely breakfast and often prepping my other meals for the day too.

This morning I fancied something really sweet but didn’t want porridge. I was all set and ready to make pancakes but I then remembered I still hadn’t brought over half of my cooking ingredients (come on, buckwheat flour!), so I thought I’d make cookies. Gluten-free, vegan, refined sugar-free cookies. Old Natasha would have been terrified at the thought! Also, sorry for the horrid lighting in all these pictures – 7 am isn’t the best time for light here!

 

These cookies are stupidly easy to make. The base just comes from two ingredients and then you can totally customize them however you like. Because I’m boring and obsessed with the banana/vanilla/almond butter/chocolate combination, I totally had to go for that. But you can add anything that you like and play around with the flavors. Cinnamon and nutmeg would be amazing for a wintery flavor.

Of course, these aren’t the cookies that you grew up eating. They have an entirely different taste and texture. But they’re super filling, delicious, nourishing and ideal for breakfast. Oats are full of slow release energy and have numerous health benefits, while chia seeds and almond butter add some great plant protein. Don’t worry, there will be some Food as Medicine 101 posts on most of these ingredients coming soon!

cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup oat quick cooking oats (again, this is all I had as I haven’t fully stocked up my kitchen. You can probably take normal oats and grind them down into a chunky flour)
  • 1 very ripe mashed banana
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp runny almond butter
  • 1/4 cup Punch Foods Raw Cocoa Boost Supersedes (If you don’t have these you can sub cacao nibs or mixed seeds depending on what you fancy)
  • 1/2 Tsp raw vanilla powder
  • Generous pinch (or two) of salt (to taste)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  • In a large mixing bowl add the oats, chia seeds, super seeds, vanilla powder, and salt. Stir well to combine.
  • Stir in the almond butter and banana until all the mixture is well coated.
  • I also added a teaspoon or two of rice malt syrup (see here for why that’s my sweetener of choice) because my banana wasn’t super ripe and I knew I’d be missing out on some sweetness.
  • On a lined baking tray take about a tablespoon of the mixture and roll it into a little ball. Gently press down with a fork to create a round cookie shape.
  • I liked to try and make them as round as possible without too many small bits poking out to prevent burning.
  • Pop the cookies in the oven for around ten minutes (depending on oven).
  • Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. When ready, take them out and allow them to cool for a couple of minutes before tucking in.
  • I topped mine with almond butter (literally obsessed, but here’s why almonds are good for you!) and berries and it was just what the doctor (aka my brain) ordered. Cookies for breakfast?

Who knew!

 

What’s your favorite combination?

If you have any doubt regarding the recipe feel free to contact me here.

Plant Based Picnic & My Favourite Porridge

Those of you who follow me on Instagram will probably have seen quite a few posts that mention the #plantbasedpicnic.

How did it come about? Well, my darling Pixie (of @plantbased_pixie) fame, had mentioned one day how great it was meeting Instagram friends and said it would be great to meet more. We had both been having a lot of people asking to meet us. Which, of course, is amazing, but there’s only so much time (and money) available to keep eating out at the pricey (yet yummy) plant-based eateries. So I realized that it would be awesome to hold a picnic and invite everyone from Instagram to join us for a foodie feast!

So, Pixie, Maxine (@GloriouslyDelicious) and I put out a call to London Instagrammers. We had a great turnout (much bigger than we excepted) in Regent’s park. We were joined by the awesome girls from Rebel Kitchen and a lot of the team from the Wild Food Cafe. Everyone who came brought insanely delicious food, and we talked and ate the day away. I seriously had a cacao hangover the next day. That’s totally a thing. Promise.

plant

The day was such a success that we’ve decided to make this a monthly thing. And we’re going big! September’s picnic is being held at my favorite raw food cafe, Tanya’s, on Sunday 7th. Already nearly 40 people have confirmed that they’re coming (I can’t even begin to imagine how much cake I’m going to eat!) and a number of your favorite plant-based brands will be coming too.

If you’d like to join us, please join the Facebook group so we can invite you to the event so we can get an idea of how many people will be coming!

The picnics are a wonderful way to meet and connect with like-minded foodies. There’s honestly something so special about sharing food with each other, so if you’re in London, please do come!

Now, onto porridge!

I’ve really been struggling with my health over the last couple of weeks, and I’m trying to make sure that I nourish my body in the best way I know how. I usually avoid a big breakfast because my body uses most of its energy on digestion, meaning I often have to take to my bed to rest. If I’m able to do that, I definitely do porridge for breakfast. But recently I’ve been enjoying it even more for supper. It feels like such a treat!

And there are some amazing health benefits to eating your daily oats! Oats can aid in:

  • Lowering cholesterol
  • Reducing risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Enhancing immune response to infection
  • Stabilizing blood sugar
  • Reducing risk of Type 2 diabetes

Once I find a combination I like, I tend to stick with it. So I’ve been having this nearly every day for a week.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 1 medium/large banana
  • 1 heaped tsp almond butter
  • 1/4 Tsp raw vanilla powder
  • 1 heaped tsp Organic Burst maca
  • 1 heaped tsp Organic Burst baobab
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds
  • Punch salt (to taste)
  • Toppings of choice. I love more banana, berries, almond butter and cacao nibs.

Directions

  • Bring your water to the boil in a small pan. Immediately turn to a low heat and then add the oats and let simmer until most of the water is absorbed.
  • Mash 2/3 of your banana and mix it into the porridge. Allow thickening until all water is absorbed and you have a lovely gooey banana porridge.
  • Stir in all other extras. Pour into bowl. Add toppings. Enjoy!

Superfood Açai Bowl

In the last few months, I have come so far health wise. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean I’m not still prone to flare ups and struggles. I’m currently in the middle of a, particularly bad one.

When my body is starting to fall apart a little bit, I make sure to up my intake of super foods. They’re such a great way to support your system. And they taste super yummy, so I never feel like it’s a chore to add them to my meals!

So, with a body that is shutting down, I decided to create a gorgeous bowl of antioxidant goodness to help cheer me up. The wonderful Ekaterina from Organic Burst was kind enough to send me their Açai to try, so I built a scrummy bowl around this powerful super food. I’m a huge fan of Organic Burst products (I’ll be writing a review of them soon), and I always start my day with their spirulina and chlorella tablets to make sure I give my body the vital vitamins and minerals it needs to heal.

Açai is an Amazonian berry that contains both water and fat soluble antioxidants for the best possible protection against oxidative stress. It has one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruit and vegetables – up to 8 x more than blueberries, 3 x more than goji berries and 30 x that of red wine. Amazing, no?!

Ingredients

  • Organic Burst Açai capsules
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 heaped tsp Organic Burst Maca
  • 1 heaped tsp Organic Burst Baobab
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 2 Medjool dates
  • Enough filtered water to blend

Method

  • Open up all of the capsules to get the açai stored inside. Add this to a blender with all the other ingredients, add enough filtered water for it blend, and whizz all the ingredients together. This makes a gorgeously thick smoothie bowl.
  • Top with your favorite fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds.

Supercharged Vanilla Banana Porridge

I think it’s becoming quite obvious that I have an obsession with all things banana. I just can’t get enough of them. Thankfully, there are tonnes of health benefits! Not only are they high in pectin (which helps with digestion), they’re high in fiber, packed with potassium, and have high levels of tryptophan which helps combat depression and low moods!

Although my body does best on juice for breakfast, I’ve recently got into the habit of eating something substantial, and I can’t go back. And oats are definitely the way to go.

vanila banana

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 1 cup filtered water (you can use nut milk if you prefer)
  • 1/2 small banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp homemade almond butter
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp raw vanilla powder
  • 1 tsp Organic Burst maca
  • Pink Himalayan salt (to taste)

Method:

  • Bring your water to a rolling boil and add a pinch of salt. Add the oats and reduce to a simmer.
  • Allow most of the water to absorb. Then add the mashed banana, stir, and allow to simmer for a couple more minutes until thick and fluffy.
  • Stir in the almond butter, maca, and vanilla powder. You may wish to add a pinch more salt. Or that could just be me. I’m a salt addict!
  • Pour into a bowl and add your favorite toppings! I always add an extra banana, almond butter, and berries!