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pgn!
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      19.01.2008 18:03
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      Much tastier than the name would lead you to believe...

      *Updated Sep-2012, at end of review:

      Do not, under any circumstances, judge this product by the name that is printed on the box. I shall explain...

      Think of a high-fibre flake cereal that has a some crunch, but no honey or sugar glaze. Ponder on a traditional cereal with raisins in it that you might find in your local supermarket. Imagine a cereal with coconut and hazelnuts. You're probably contemplating one of the myriad "fruit and fibre"-type cereals, with those granite-like chunks of dried banana in, right?

      Think again.

      Toasted malted wheat and oat flakes. Flame raisins bigger than your thumbnail. Small pieces of diced apricot and chunks of date. Sunflower seeds, strips of toasted coconut and morsels of roasted hazelnuts. That's it. Oh, and no dust.

      You still with me?

      Now picture some under a splash of ice-cold semi-skimmed milk (or whatever your particular favourite breakfast pour is, for that matter). A spoon, dipped into the bowl, a bite that has a hearty crunch, a raisin or two, perhaps a wafer-thin sliver of toasted, crispy coconut... If you yearn for something a little nuttier, throw in a few (rinsed if they were salted!) roasted peanuts; if you bend more towards the fruity-side, slice in some fresh banana, apple or apricot. Then chew slowly and enjoy. One word: Yum!

      Next time you are in your local Supermarket, explore the aisle in the vicinity of the mueslis (this cereal does not advertise itself as a "muesli", by the way!) and see if you can find a box of this stuff. If you're tempted, but put off by the £2.80-odd price tag (for almost three quarters of a kilo of the stuff, 730g, 11 helpings!), then hunt a little lower or to the right - you'll find a Dorset Cereals selection box (three small packets, each different) to give you a taste you'll never forget...

      The only cardboard bit is the box.

      Nutritional info, should you need it, here: http://tinyurl.com/2d673k

      *Update Sep-2012: As Dorset Cereals have revamped their product line, this product has been dropped in favour of a smaller, almost similar, "toasted coconut and wheat flakes" version. Should you really have grown to love and enjoy this product, it's been seen on sale in b&m for £1.63 a box, get'em quick!

      (c) pgn! on dooyoo.co.uk/19-Jan-2008/revised 15-Sep-2012

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      • More +
        16.01.2008 00:15
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        A good, if bulky, means of getting access to your broadband connection from the furthest recesses...

        "I want to use your study as a studio", she said.

        And so started the Great Relocation (of sundry bits, bobs and paraphernalia which may not have seen the light of day in years!) from the study, aka "the room where the phone line lived" at one end of the house, to a purpose-built room at the rear, and at the opposite end, of the house.

        Now my trusty Zoom ADSL modem and USR wireless switch/router combo only just managed on a good day to push t'Interweb from the study (as was, or studio-to-be) through at least 4 walls to the new location - so relocating the family workhorse wired desktop Dell PC into the realm of the fully wireless was going to be a challenge.

        Step one was to minimise the amount of real-estate taken up by the ADSL feed into the house - from 2 bits of kit, amidst a tangle of cables on a desk in the study, down to one bit of kit hanging on the wall in the soon-to-be-studio... achieved admirably with the procurement of a new wireless modem router (of which more in my review elsewhere).

        Step two was to sponge a PCI-based wireless card for the PC off eBay as cost-effectively as possible, based on the experience gained hooking the kids' PC in the hallway upstairs up to the USR using a Linksys WMP54GS (also recounted elsewhere).

        Sadly, whilst the WMP54GS upstairs, two walls and a floor away from the ADSL entry-point in the studio, worked brilliantly with its shiny new wall-mounted adoptive wireless modem router downstairs, my second-hand WMP54G off eBay refused to hold on to the signal well enough when the Dell was on the desk, and failed completely when it was positioned in its intended final location under the desk in the new "study".

        Cue the Belkin N1 Wireless USB adapter, or F5D8051uk, PCN 7-22868-60657-5. Peeling the shrink-wrap off the box revealed the typical Belkin silver "open here" arrow on the carton inside the sleeve, and a very easily-read 1-sheet "how to get you going" instruction leaflet.

        "First Insert the CD into the PC", and follow the prompts... A couple of Next's and the setup program told me to plug the USB cable on the cradle into the PC, then to plug the rather large (!) USB dongle into the cradle. All eventually was plugged into a port on my 4-port USB2.0 card (also procured off eBay), itself currently occupying one of the PCI slots at the rear of the PC.

        Pretty much straight-off, the Belkin client software popped-up and prompted for the SSID I use, then it detected and latched onto the wall-mounted wireless modem router hanging on the wall back in the "studio" as easily as you please. The Dell PC was returned to its space on the floor, under the desk, and the USB adapter was positioned on the edge of the bookshelf housing our eye-level inkjet printer (all mod-cons here y'see!).

        So here I sit, in my study-cum-office, typing away on the PC that used to live in the study/studio, with hardly a wire in sight... whilst herself rearranges the furniture in her new studio. Thanks, Belkin - a real treat!

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        • Cookworks Breadmaker / Bread Maker / 45 Readings / 36 Ratings
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          13.01.2008 11:16
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          Turns out a passable loaf with minimal effort or outlay

          The most recent review of this brand/range of breadmaker is over 4 years old, so I thought: "Time to freshen up this section of DooYoo a bit!". This is a review of the Cookworks Signature White breadmaker, as sold in Argos on Cat# 422-9382 (Jan-2008) and other outlets. An abbreviated web-link for this is given below, along with some general info and a proven recipe for those of you doing battle with home-made bread this January.

          The knead for dough.

          After the failure of another brand of bargain-basement breadmaker one weekend, I was obliged to seek out a replacement toute-suite, as the young and ever-hungry mouths in our house were due to return to school after the holidays, and the prospect of so doing without a sustainable means of providing healthy school lunches to order every morning bore heavy on the parental shoulders...

          The key driver for this purchase was cost, with urgency ranked a close second. The benchmark was the previous 2 breadmakers we'd owned had come down in price from £29.99 to £19.99, although were only available at most two or three times a year in the local Lidl. This meant my target price was around £25.

          An hour on the web pulling info from kelkoo and Pricerunner, dooyoo and Ciao, yielded several possibilities, although most of those were mail-order and would have taken a week or so to receive (at least!). Next avenue was to try the websites of local outlets: Debenhams, Tesco, Homebase, Argos, Currys - bingo, a couple of options surfaced. The final hurdle - do we buy based on the on-line review/details (from the website directly) or go look at the offerings in the shop and waste more of our precious Sunday afternoon...? A no-brainer - for the price, and safe in the knowledge that we could return any machine that turned out to be a lemon, we opted to place a reserve on-line for the cheapest that looked like it would fit on our kitchen counter from Argos, an outlet that was a mere 15minutes away in the car.

          Argos offers two versions of the Cookworks Signature breadmaker range - a stainless-steel/black one for £26.99, or the same but in white plastic with stainless-steel trim, for £23.99. This review is of the latter, cheaper, whiter (!) model, Argos Catalog code 422-9382, http://tinyurl.com/2jpkna .

          40 minutes later, my son and I were ripping the non-descript outer packaging open, and out came something that looked a bit like a white, lidded mop-bucket (even with a carry-handle!) sporting a thin stainless-steel band around the middle and some buttons on a panel, also in stainless steel, around an LCD display.

          Inside the "bucket" were a plastic cup containing a measuring spoon and a metal kneader, a flimsy paper pamphlet containing instructions, recipes and various bits of guidance on the machine, including its preparation and use, plus a deep, square baking pan and 2 or three bits of cardboard. Oh - and a metal hook for teasing the kneader out of the loaf as well.

          The pamphlet said to ensure no plastic remained in the machine, to locate it securely where it would not be in a direct draught, and to smear the inside of the removable baking pan with some cooking oil and put the unit into a bake-only cycle for ten minutes to remove any traces of manufacturing oil as well as to proof the baking pan's non-stick coating. "This process may produce some smoke" - but not to worry. Smoke? It looked like something you'd see on TV after the election of a new Pope - but only for about 5 minutes.

          After opening the windows to clear the smoke from the kitchen, and after the machine had cooled, a quick rinse of the removable baking pan left the unit ready for its first assignment - the traditional family brown loaf, tweaked over the years to give a nice, loaf-shaped result that everyone enjoyed (recipe given at the end of this review).

          Come 10:30pm, and having consigned the useless plastic measuring spoon to the bin (I have my own stainless steel set!), I decided that the miniscule 8oz/250ml measuring cup provided was insufficient given most of the recipes in the pamphlet needed 280ml or more of water (!!) and trashed that as well. I threw together the usual combination of ingredients, took care to put the salt, sugar, powdered yeast into separate small wells on top of the flour, which in turn was floating on top of the oil and water in the bottom of the pan, programmed the unit to a 1.5lb loaf, selected program 3 (wholewheat), desired at 07:00 in the morning, and retired to bed. Surprisingly, the beeps of this machine as I pressed the buttons were nice and quiet - previous models I'd owned had deafening beeps!

          The recipe I use (given below) works well in the Cookware machine, but does yield a smallish loaf - enough to do the school lunches for 3 children and provide some toast during the day. Suffice it to say, the next morning I was greeted with the familiar smell of fresh baked bread, and the results were as expected. I'll experiment with this machine to try and get a larger loaf, but for now, I am happy with the unit - let's see how it holds out!

          The breadmaker has a surprisingly good range of user-selectable recipes (or menus), including 3 combinations for controlling the crust colour, others to switch between 1.5lb or 2lb loaf, and, the best feature, the timer function. As with all the other machines I've used over the years for this purpose, you need a bit of mental arithmetic to determine what hours/minutes you need to enter to get the bread cooked by your desired breakfast time. I'd really like to see someone make a machine with a CLOCK that makes this easy!

          To get the best out of it, you need to follow a few simple rules:
          1. Always put the water and oil into the pan first - and don't forget the kneader!
          2. Put the flour, or flours, into the pan on top of the water and oil.
          3. Make 2 or three small wells or depressions in the flour after it's in the pan, one for each of the salt, sugar and yeast... but try to ensure the yeast does not mix with the salt or sugar before the appointed time at which the machine starts to mix the dough (otherwise the yeast doesn't work, and your bread resembles a brick!)
          4. Carefully put the pan into the machine WITHOUT sloshing it around too much - the yeast needs to be kept dry until the mixing process starts, sometime in the wee small hours if you're programming the bread to be ready at breakfast time.
          5. Set the timer according to when you want your bread to be ready. If you allow a half-hour extra, the loaf will be manageable, and the kneader will pop right out of the bottom of the loaf, with minor, if any, encouragement from the specially-provided "kneader hook", aforementioned.

          Here are the accrued tips of years using these machines as to the types of yeast, flour and other ingredients that work best for me. You'll also have seen these if you read my breadmaker reviews on Ciao - I make no excuses!

          a. Yeast has to be the fine powdery stuff with added ascorbic acid - typically, Sainsbury's or Tesco sell either their own brand, or Hovis or Allinsons, in packs of six or eight 7g sachets. My usual recipe uses less than half a teaspoonful of yeast, so a box of sachets lasts ages.

          b. Tescos or Sainsbury's own-brand STRONG white bread flour works perfectly. If you like brown bread, cut white flour with about a third of regular coarse, medium or fineground wholemeal flour.

          c. If you want to experiment, try using some stale or leftover lager or ale instead of water - but if it's high-alcohol (which gets baked off anyhow!) remember to add a little extra yeast, about a quarter of a teaspoon more than recommended, or your bread won't rise properly.

          d. Use salt with LARGE crystals, like Rock Salt (Tidmans) or Sea Salt (Maldons or Saxo "flakes"), and leave the crystals whole - the fine, powdery common-or-garden tablesalt has other additives in it that can give the bread a "metallic" taste.

          e. So many home bread recipes include "powdered milk" as an ingredient (don't ask me why...!); if you have anyone who's got a sensitivity or allergy to milk products, simply omit the milk powder. I find it makes little difference to the final loaf whether you add it or not, so why bother?

          f. Leave the loaf in the pan, in the machine on its keep-warm cycle, for about 30 mins after cooking has completed - this allows everything to cool so it's a little less like handling a lavastone as you try to extricate the loaf from the pan, and also allows the kneader to "sweat" out of the loaf.

          And last but not least, my standard recipe for our daily brown bread in this household:

          100g medium ground wholemeal flour (Whites is an adequate brand)
          215g supermarket-brand strong white bread flour
          180ml water (or diluted cold tea if you like a darker bread)
          3 tsp (teaspoonfuls) olive or corn oil, depending on your taste
          1 tsp corase salt (Maldon Sea Salt flakes are good)
          2 tsp fine brown muscovado sugar
          quarter tsp of Allinson easy-bake yeast.

          Addition of a teaspoonful or so of one or more of the following (available in most supermarkets near the cakes/baking section) adds variety, crunch/body and flavour, if so desired: poppyseeds, linseeds(brown or golden), sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds.

          Let the adventurer in you out - experiment!

          (c) pgn! - 12-Jan-2008 on dooyoo.co.uk.

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          • Nestle in general / Other Food / 39 Readings / 34 Ratings
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            08.12.2007 20:19
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            Chocolate heaven from the chiller

            ** This is a review of Nestlé 'Little Pots Of Heaven' chilled baked cream desserts, a category not specifically covered on dooyoo.co.uk **

            Ever had that yearning for a luscious, decadently-rich post-dinner treat or dessert that's intense enough to stun that craving for an intense chocolate hit without either having to stand slavering (yes, you read right!) over a bain-marie, or worse yet, waiting for some soufflé to emerge from the oven...?

            There is a "new" Nestlé dessert now in the chiller cabinet of your local Tesco (or similar), called "Little Pots of Heaven"; there is a chocolate variety of this dessert which will forever turn you truly to the Dark Side - read on only if you are brave, what I describe is not for the faint-of-heart!

            This chilled dessert presents as a 100g portion in a foil-topped glass jar, with two jars in a cardboard-overwrapped carton for £1.69 (occasionally £0.99 "on offer"). It's a French-made baked cream dessert, available in three flavours: chocolate; caramel, or vanilla. If you didn't gather from the opening paragraph of this review, I reiterate: my focus is the chocolate variety. I have tried all three varieties, and will compare all three later - but for the time being, let's focus on aiming our phasers, set on stun only, at that aforementioned postprandial chocolate craving...

            The two glass jars clink nicely as you undo the cardboard that joins them, separating these Siam-like twins. The gold foil on each jar peels nicely, easily and cleanly back off the lip of the jar, or "pot". What greets the eye is a smooth, set surface of dark, dark chocolate - just begging to be cast asunder by the hard, cold, probing spoon in your hand - I find a small teaspoon, the smaller the better (like a mustard spoon?), suffices here.

            By now, the craving for this luscious little spoonful should have your mouth a-watering, and as soon as the first miniscule dollop hits your tongue, you appreciate 2 important facts: first, the cold, creamy mass, melting, nay deliquescing, over your tongue has an amazing amount of chocolate presence, and secondly, the effect of drawing the spoon out between your lips leaves another layer of chocolate heaven on your lips, which needs more licking to appreciate fully... and so on.

            The texture is smooth, creamy; the taste, intense and sharply chocolate - not overly sweet, nor starchy. The pudding is firm, definitely a baked, firm surface that continues to hold the pudding's form as it is eaten - not sludgy, not slimy.

            The pot, for all its size, takes an awful amount of scraping to ensure that no remnants are left - those of a less fastidious nature have been known to actually try to lick the pot clean!

            Nutrition information is visually presented on the front of the carton, and I will not bore you with it here. Take it on faith - this pud is goood!

            The other two varieties are caramel and vanilla. Both have the same wonderful texture and mouth-feel as the chocolate variety, but the caramel variety has a much sweeter taste than the chocolate variety. The vanilla variety is more akin to the cream-part of a cream caramel or crème brulée, although again marred by that oversweetness found in the caramel variety.

            So, dear reader - yearn no more! Pass by the chiller section in Tesco and drop a pack of chocolate Nestlé 'Little Pots Of Heaven' into your trolley, mmmm....

            (c) pgn! on dooyoo.co.uk, Dec-2007.

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            • Sony MDR NC50 / Headphones / 30 Readings / 27 Ratings
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              02.12.2007 14:24
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              Sony MDR-NC50 represent a good, mid-range set of noise cancelling headphones.

              "Excuse me, Sir, we're having a free trial of these headphones for some people on our flight today. Would you... Sure! Comfortable? Volume ok? Now allow me to..." >click< :::silence::: **

              And so started my love affair, at 37,000feet, with noise-cancelling headphones. Little did that unsuspecting, helpful member of the cabin-crew aboard an American Airlines flight between the UK and Chicago know what those kind words have come to mean...

              Those headphones which piqued my interest so were from another manufacturer; I have since tried to discover just what price silence, amidst the cacophony that is a long-haul jet airliner, can cost. For just under £100.00, these Sony headphones are pretty good. Similar functionality from other manufacturers can cost you almost 3 times that amount!

              The Sony MDR-NC50 is a full-ear, foldable set of headphones, powered by a single AAA battery if you wish to use the noise-cancellation feature (the "NC" in the model number!). They do make you look more like you should be up at the front of the aircraft, in the driving seat, but for the total auditory exclusion which they afford, they are well worth the money.

              A single cord, about 1.5m long, sufficient to allow you to stretch out comfortably and still keep the headphones on and connected to the average airline seat entertainment system, comes with the phones, alongside an adapter that fits most airline seat jacks. A stereo phone plug to mini jack converter comes along with as well. To complete the package, you get a nifty nylon zippered carry-case, with a small pocket inside to carry an extra battery, all the bits above and the folded-flat (!) headphones.

              There are flatter models of full-ear headphones available - no doubt, the Sony MDR-NC50 is a chunky beast! However, the AAA battery lives beneath a plastic clip on the upper side of the right ear-cup, so unlike some flatter models, you don't have a separate battery-holder flailing around you as you engross yourself in the deeper reaches of Rachmaninov's 3rd! The NC on-off switch is at the lower edge of the same ear-cup.

              The audio cord, complete with gold-plated contacts, plugs into the bottom of the left ear-cup. This cup also has a "monitor" or "mute" button, effectively silencing whatever you are listening to so you can hear what's going on around you.

              Be warned: The padded ear-cups need to be fairly well positioned over your ears, otherwise the noise-cancellation circuitry can emit a sharp whistle! The Sony-emblazoned head band has plenty of adjustment to allow you to find the most comfortable position. In-flight, these phones can make your ears very warm after a while, so keeping them on for long periods is not to be recommended. They weigh just under 300g, another reason why you might like to remove them occasionally. You'll be walking around the cabin periodically to alleviate the risk of DVT anyway, won't you?

              The Sony branding is obvious on the product packaging, as is the fact the product is suited to use on an aeroplane. There is a copious amount of packaging, though - so if you buy a set of these at the airport, prepare to deposit a good bin's worth of packaging before you get to your prized headphones. And buy an extra battery: you get about 25-30hrs use out of a decent alkaline cell.

              Overall, for the price, the MDR-NC50 is a decent set of noise cancelling headphones.

              ** A variant of this review was also posted by my alter-ego on another UK Consumer Review site, in case you feel like you're suffering from an acute attack of déjà vu!

              (c) pgn!/02-Dec-2007/dooyoo.co.uk

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