What to Look for in an Espresso Machine

Like every home application, you need to carefully consider various factors before buying an Espresso machine. Every coffee drinkers’ habits and preferences are different, so you need to make a well-informed choice about the various features and costs before selecting one for your kitchen. We have made a list of all the features and points you should consider while planning to buy an Espresso Machine. Types There are several types of espresso machines available: Manual Espresso Maker – Providing you with a little more control of your espresso, this machine lets you handle every process yourself which might increase the chances of screwing up slightly. It may take some time to learn this machine but once done, you can expect a richly flavored coffee every time. Semi-Automatic Espresso Maker – One of the most popular espresso machines, this one comes with an electric pump which makes it easier to use and although you still handle the processes manually in this one, the ease of learning helps a lot. Fully Automatic Espresso Maker – These machines are a lot easier to use and in addition to electric pump, automate the amount and delivery of the water in espresso which takes a little more control out of hand and may not be liked by people who have specific espresso likings. Super Automatic Espresso Maker – A great espresso machines for those who don’t have time to put in effort, all you have to do in this machine is just press a little button and you’ll be produced with your cup of espresso instantly. Attractiveness Although this is not a crucial factor to consider but if you are one of those people who like their house interiors to match, then you might want to consider which material and color your espresso machine should be made of. You can’t just display any espresso machine if you have an open kitchen as it won’t give a good impression to your guests. So choose a machine which matches the interiors of your kitchen and won’t stick out like a sore thumb. Storage This is an important factor to consider because if you are not a frequent drinker or if you like to keep your coffee maker locked while you are away, its storage issue could pose you a problem. A large espresso machine will be difficult to carry and store in the kitchen cupboards and might have to be kept in other parts of the house. So make sure you buy a machine which is easy to store and light to carry so you don’t face any issue while transporting it to a new storage place. Cleaning Check if your espresso machine is easy to disassemble and reassemble since every now and then you would need to clean it up and if it is simpler, it would become easier and faster for you. Another thing to ensure is that you use the correct soap for washing the espresso machine and rinse it properly, otherwise next time you make a cup of coffee, you will taste more of soap than coffee. Water capacity Most of the machines can provide you with 8 cups of espresso at a time which is more than sufficient for your home but if you need a larger quantity of espresso’s, then you need to go for a machine with larger water tanks. In this larger espresso machines, you might have to check if there is a need for connection to a water source or not. Grinding Capabilities Check what kind of grinder is suitable for you: a built-in grinder or a separate grinder. Most espresso machines come with a separate grinder and in some cases, you actually have to buy a grinder. Only super automatic espresso machines come with a built-in grinder but these machines are expensive and don’t let you handle the brewing process. So check what type of grinder would your espresso machine comes with before selecting it for your home. Long-lasting This is a crucial point to consider and you should always go for a machine which is slightly durable and won’t break or overheat after just a few times. If you make a lot of cups every day and need to use the machine constantly, then better to go for professional-grade espresso machines (read reviews at Freshpresso). But if you need your espresso only once or twice a day, then a small espresso machine would do for you.

Coconut Moka Cakes

My mom made these coconut moka cakes for the holidays this year. They one of my grandmother’s Christmas recipes, although I had never had them before, she used to make them way back, before my time. It was great discovering them, the perfect sweet little after-dinner holiday treat with a wonderful cake center, a sweet icing and lots of coconut. Needless to say, I have been eating lots of them. They are called coconut moka cakes here as this is what my grandmother used to call them but they are pretty close to (if not just plain are) Australian lamingtons. What did my french-canadian grand-mother was doing in the 60-70s with an Australian lamington inspired recipe, I do not know. But it is very true to her always-exploring-new-things spirit, which I have always loved and found a very fitting way to start the new year here. 2011 was a good even if a tad hard year. I learned a lot, cooked a lot and travelled a little. I spent a good amount of time here, shaping it more and more into what I want it to be and improving various aspects slowly but surely. I still have lots to learn but I am glad to be where I am. And I am very grateful and thankful that you are all here with me. I am quite hopeful 2012 will be a great year, hopefully a year of change, movement and exploration of new things. While keeping the good things 2011 brought though, of course. I hope you guys have a wonderful and happy 2012, filled with joy, health and peace. xo Coconut Moka Cakes About 36 cakes 2 eggs 1 cup sugar 1 cup flour pinch of salt 1 tsp baking powder 1 tbsp butter ½ cup milk ½ cup icing sugar, divided 2 tsp butter, divided 2 to 4 tsp milk, divided 1 tsp cocoa ½ tsp vanilla unsweeted coconut Pre-heat your oven to 325F. Heat the milk and the butter until the butter has completely melted, reserve. Beat the eggs until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat 5 minutes more. Add the flour, salt and baking powder, mix well. Add the milk and butter mixture, mix and pour in a parchemin paper lined rectangular pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool completely and cut the cake in 1 inch square cubes. Make two icing, one chocolate (1/4 cup icing sugar, 1 tsp butter, 1 tsp cocoa and milk) and one vanilla (1/4 cup icing sugar, 1 tsp butter, ½ tsp vanilla and milk) by beating the ingredients together and adding enough milk to get a smooth consistency. Cover the cake cubes in icing and roll in unsweeted coconut. Keep in the refrigerator before serving.

Banana Bran Coconut Muffins

I love banana bread, I find it’s a great different option for breakfast and something to do with old bananas. We seem to often have old bananas in the house, which is I guess explained by the fact that I like my bananas almost green so as soon as there is a hint of brown on them, they’re too sweet for me. So, I was going to make banana bread (again! I know…) but Matt, who is quite the muffin fan, suggested muffins. With bran. I thought it was a great idea and that a little bit of sweetened coconut (leftover from easter baking) would be nice too. So these came to life. They are really good, not too sweet as they’re is no sugar other than the coconut, and really good and hearty with the bran and the whole wheat. Mmmm muffins Banana Bran Coconut Muffins 1 1/4 cup of milk 3/4 cup of bran 1/2 cup whole wheat flour 1/2 cup unbleached flour 1/4 tsp baking powder 1/4 tsp baking soda 1 egg 2 bananas, smushed 1/2 cup of sweet shredded coconut In a bowl, pour the milk and add the bran. Let the bran soak for 15 minutes in the milk until it is all mushy. Add the egg and the bananas, mix well. Add all the dry ingredients and the coconut and mix well again. Pour the batter evenly in muffin tins. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes until they golden on top.  

Key Lime Pie

I was at one of our favorite stores in the market the other day waiting in line at the cash to buy my pound and a half of dried into beans (I have a ridiculous love for refried beans) and the guy in front of me was buying a ton of things (including a big bag full of scotch bonnet peppers – jeez!) so I had time to look around. It is a great store, lots of things to look at. Anyway, I spotted bags of key limes! I was so excited, I decided to get them. Of course, I made key lime pie. Key lime pie makes reminds me of Florida vacations: the beach, the sun and lots going places in a car that is almost unbearably hot at first. I remember having key lime pie in Florida but I can’t remember when or where, I was too young I think, memories are fuzzy. It’s not that hard to make at all, just a bit of work to squeeze the juice out of the limes. You can also make a meringue to put on top but I didn’t bother, I find it good as it is: sweet, thick and lime-y. Key Lime Pie 1/2 cup key lime juice (~20-25 key limes) zest of 4 key limes 1 can of sweetned condensed milk 3 egg yolks Crust 2 cups graham cracker crumbs 1/4 cup melted butter 1 tbs sugar pinch of salt Pre-heat your oven at 350F. In a bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs, the sugar, salt and melted butter. Mix well. Press the crumbs in a pie plate (with your fingers) against the bottom ans the sides. Bake the crust for 10 minutes. While this is happening, prepare the filling: zest and juice the limes and mix well with the egg yolks and condensed milk. Remove the crust from the oven, let cool for a few minutes and put the filling in it. Bake for another 10 minutes. When it is done, let cool and chill in the fridge for a few hours.

Malay Coconut Curry

I find myself making some variant of this curry very often these days. It’s become one of our staples for a quick dinner on nights where Matt is playing basketball and getting home late and hungry. Or for a quick fixed lunch before or after running some errands on the week-end. It’s also what I have been craving in this post-holiday madness. Because I do not know about you, but for us, it’s been hectic. So while we yearn for the return of our routine, at least we have this curry on hand. It’s exactly what we need these with it being fresh, light and tangy while at the same time being rich, velvety and comforting. Which I know might seem like an oxymoron to some, but it is the most fitting way to describe it, with the curry, lime and vegetables giving it the former and the coconut milk and tomato sauce providing the latter. It’s also great because it can be whipped up in roughly 20 minutes or less with simple ingredients and not much work. We make it with fantastic Malay curry powder that we bough at one of our favorite spice store, which has a good spice to it and it is complex and flavorful. If you cannot find Malay curry powder or have another one on hand, the recipe would work well with other types of curry powder as well I believe. Malay Coconut Curry 2 large portions 2 tsp malay curry powder 1 inch fresh ginger, minced 1 garlic clove, minced 1 tbsp vegetable oil 1 tomato, chopped finely 1 cup coconut milk 1 cup broth (vegetable or chicken) juice of ½ lime salt 1 cup tofu, cut in cubes ½ head brocoli, cut in fleurets 1 carrot, sliced finely ½ red bell peppers, sliced finely handful of cilantro, chopped cooked rice (or noodles) Mix the curry powder with the minced ginger and garlic. Add a drizzle of water, mix well to form a paste. In a large heavy bottom pot, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Add the curry paste and cook for 1 or 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the coconut milk, broth and lime juice (and a little salt depending on your broth), bring to a simmer. Add the chopped tomatoes, bring back to a simmer and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tofu and brocoli, and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more, until the broccoli is just tender. Serve over cooked rice (or cooked noodles). Place the sliced carrots and red pepper on top, with a handful of chopped cilantro.

Watercress Soup

We had bought watercress for an asian noodle salad type of thing the other night but didn’t end up using it as the bowl (one of our biggest bowls I’d like to say) was too small (or maybe the salad was too big? we’re ambitious people) so there was no space for it. I wanted to use it and I wasn’t too sure what to do with it (we love watercress but definitely don’t use it enought), so after a bit of inspiration searching, I decided a soup would be perfect to make for a smallish dinner. We had this warm and also cold and, while both are quite good, it is definately at it’s best cold. I origninally wanted to serve it with about a tablespoon of plain yogourt in addition to the olive oil and pepper flakes but we were out of yogurt (so sad, I know) so if you want to try it, I’m sure it would be great with it. Watercress Soup bunch of watercress, washed 3 potatoes, pealed and chopped 1 small onion, diced 4-5 cup of stock (chicken or vegetable) 1/2 tbsp curry powder 3 bay leaves 1/2 tsp chili flakes olive oil salt (adjust depending how salty your stock is) pinch of chili flakes olive oil In a big pot, heat (at medium heat) a bit of olive oil. Add the onions, curry powder and chili flakes, cook for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the watercress, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add the chopped potatoes, the stock, the bay leaves and salt (if needed, check your stock). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are well cooked (even a bit overcooked). Remove the bay leaves, let cool a little bit and buzz (either in a blender or with an immersion blender). Serve cold with a pinch of pepper flakes and a drizzle of olive oil.