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MSC Urban Essence Lemon Citrus Reamer
MSC Urban Essence Lemon Citrus Reamer

4.0 out of 5 stars Works really well... I use it all the time, December 26, 2011
I received one of these citrus reamers from my mother-in-law a couple of Christmases ago and although I already had a reamer I was "making do" with (the OXO Good Grips Aluminum Lemon Reamer), I'm really glad she gave me this one as I have to say it works MUCH better than my previous one. From an appearance point-of-view, it's probably not something I'd have picked for myself, but as far as juicing lemons and other citrus fruit goes, it does exactly what I need it to. In contrast to the aluminum reamer, this one cuts into the fruit easily and does a much better job of getting all or most of the juice out of it with minimal effort. I think the aluminum reamer is just too slippery to really do a good job of crushing its way through the pulp as you twist the fruit, while this one will get just about all the juice out in a matter of seconds. I now use this one probably a couple of times a week while the aluminum one is out of commission somewhere in the back of my jumbled utensil drawer.

I have no idea if this reamer is dishwasher-safe as it didn't come with any guidance on how to wash it, and I've never dared put it in the dishwasher for fear of the wooden reamer coming apart from the ceramic handle. It's very easy to wash under a hot tap, though, so the dishwasher "issue" really isn't one at all.

So all in all? This does exactly what I need it to, so... what's not to recommend?

OXO Good Grips Aluminum Lemon Reamer
OXO Good Grips Aluminum Lemon Reamer
Price: $20.88
4 used & new from $20.88

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's OK. I prefer my wooden one., December 18, 2011
I bought one of these a few years ago as I'm usually quite a fan of the Good Grips range of kitchen utensils and have rarely been let down by one. I have to say that while this does the job, just about, it's not one of OXO's better items. It's sturdily-built and as well-made as you'd expect from this range (that is to say, REALLY sturdily-built and well-made), but it's far from perfect. You certainly CAN use it to juice a lemon, and it does a reasonably competent job of it, but it could be a lot better-designed. The business end of this reamer is much too smooth and curved, with the result that it takes a lot more effort to use than a simple wooden reamer, and it still doesn't feel like you've got all the juice out when you're done. The lemon just seems to slide around the reamer and there's nothing to really get a grip on when you're squeezing the lemon. In contrast, the MSC Urban Essence Lemon Citrus Reamer I received as a gift a couple of years ago is much more efficient. Another issue I've experienced is the aluminum reacting with the citrus juice, resulting in a dull, blackened-looking reamer rather than a shiny silvery-looking one. Looks like OXO is aware that wood might be a better material when it comes to citrus reamers, as they also have a wooden version available. it doesn't really match the "look" of most of their products, and it's lacking in the "grip" that gives the product line its name, but I think if I find myself needing another reamer in the future, that is the one I'd go for.

Ribena Original Blackcurrant Drink, 33.8-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 4)
Ribena Original Blackcurrant Drink, 33.8-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 4)
Offered by Tora Foods UK
Price: $49.18
2 used & new from $49.18

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I'm no fan of concentrated juice drinks, but in Ribena's case, I make an exception!, December 5, 2011
Ribena is one of those childhood staples that I MUST have. I miss the little juice packs that you can get in the UK as well as the carbonated variety that comes in cans, but you really can't beat the old-skool bottled concentrate. If you've never tried Ribena, well.... you should. It's made from real blackcurrant juice, you won't find any revolting artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup in it, and although it's definitely a calorie-laden sugary treat, it is SO much better-tasting than any 'diet' drink you can get. It's really refreshing and thirst-quenching full of blackcurranty delicousness. A little goes a long way because it's so concentrated, so a bottle can last a long time if you're a little sparing with the stuff. It's not just for kids, either - you can make all manner of respectable grown-up beverages with Ribena. Just try splashing a little bit into a glass of cider (or into a glass of part-cider, part-lager for a "Snakebite and Black"... mandatory drink of every discerning goth type), add a generous slosh to a vodka & tonic... even a little dash in some sparkling mineral water makes for a wonderfully different and refreshing drink. It will add a bright, fruity flavor to all kinds of things, AND it's full of vitamin C so you can even feel all virtuous while you drink it.

To sum up in one word: YUM.

KitchenAid Can Opener, Red
KitchenAid Can Opener, Red
Price: $11.10
17 used & new from $6.40

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Good For the Actual Opening of Cans. Does Look Nice, Though., December 1, 2011
I picked up one of these Kitchen Aid can openers (a green one) on sale in TJ Maxx a while ago, and was very pleased with my purchase until I came around to actually using it. Or trying to use it, rather. This thing is the worst can opener I have ever owned. It is REALLY difficult to get the opener to grip onto a can; it just seems like the design won't allow the teeth to grab on properly. Even when (after a whole load of attempts, adjusting and readjusting the position, etc), you mange to get some kind of a grip onto the can, actually opening it and getting the blade to cut through the metal is almost always a struggle. I'll invariably end up with the metal pierced in some places and not in others and having to pry the lid open with a knife and trying to pour the contents out through whatever opening I can manage to make with this can opener. I'm very disappointed in it, as I'm usually quite a fan of all things Kitchen Aid and had high hopes that it would work well. But it doesn't. To be honest, I'm always taken aback with surprise on the (very) rare occasion that this thing DOES manage to successfully separate a can from its lid without an extended battle and the assistance of other kitchen utensils.

I don't get it... making a can opener that actually works can't be rocket science, as the dirt-cheap ones that my mother and grandmother (and every other mother and grandmother I knew!) owned when I was a kid worked just fine. Modern ones seem to be a whole lot less reliable. I've had several pretty bad ones that just aren't very good at opening cans, but this one from Kitchen Aid is the worst yet.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 15, 2013 9:13 AM PST

Paxo Sage & Onion Stuffing Mix 85g
Paxo Sage & Onion Stuffing Mix 85g
Offered by Tora Foods UK
Price: $3.96
11 used & new from $2.69

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There's Nothing Else QUITE Like Paxo...., November 26, 2011
Since moving to the US from the UK several years ago I have become inordinately fond of the Thanksgiving holiday, and spend most of the year looking forward to the all-day cookathon that it entails. Thanksgiving dinner, you see, is extremely similar to what we cook for Christmas dinner in the UK, and I've really enjoyed discovering traditional American side dishes that I'd never eaten before, while sneaking in a few English twists into the proceedings, one of which is Paxo stuffing.

Yeah, yeah... in an ideal world, of course, I'd be making my own stuffing from scratch - wouldn't we all? But much as I love cooking (I'm an enthusiastic, if not necessarily expert cook), there are some culinary duties my inner domestic goddess balks at, and apparently the making of stuffing is one of them. I make every one of the other multiple side dishes entirely from fresh ingredients, but, well... even if I did feel inclined to mess around with breadcrumbs and the "traditional" stuffing ingredients (Chestnuts, anyone? Dried apricots?) that celebrity chefs would have me believe I should really be cooking, I think I'd feel somehow cheated if the meal was lacking some good old-fashioned stuffing-out-of-a-packet. So the pre-Thanksgiving shopping list always includes a few boxes of Paxo.

Paxo is, as you may have gathered, a British product. Why would I need to buy a British brand of sage and onion stuffing when there are plenty of US-made varieties sold in supermarkets, you ask? Well, I don't buy Paxo "instead of", I buy it in addition to a couple of bags of the familiar American brands. I find that the two work well together - complement each other, even. They may contain the same seasonings and flavorings, but other than that, they're two very different kinds of product. American stuffing contains identifiable cubes of bread, for a start! Paxo contains wheat flour but you won't really see so much as a breadcrumb lurking in the dried mix - it comes out of the packet as a kind of seasoned powder which, when mixed with either boiling water or (a better option that will result in tastier stuffing) some stock and melted butter, will expand into a thick, dense mixture.

The thing about Paxo is that although it is called "stuffing", I really don't find it to be all that good for actually stuffing a bird, although I know there are many who feel differently and will disagree with me on this. Certainly for stuffing the huge cavity in a turkey, the American-style cubed stuffing works FAR better, in my opinion. Paxo, on the other hand, is great for baking into stuffing balls (just shape the stuffing mix once it's cooled down to a point where you can handle it, place on a cookie sheet and bake until crispy and golden brown on the outside), or making into a stuffing "loaf" in a lightly-buttered pan (the traditional British way to do this is to bake it with sausage meat, but I've always prefered it without). Its denser texture lends itself very well to these uses, which can be served up as side dishes in their own right, distinct from the cubed stuffing that's roasted inside the bird. Also try making the stuffing "balls" mentioned above, but wrapping a thin strip of bacon around them before baking. Might not be the healthiest side dish ever created, but you can guarantee that however many you make, they will all be gone in record time.

Another great thing about Paxo? Again, the denser texture means that it can be cut into "slices" without falling apart too much, and is an absolutely heavenly addition (with cranberry sauce and a little mayonnaise) to the obligatory leftover-turkey sandwiches.

An 85g packet of stuffing like this will make maybe 8-10 stuffing balls or a small "loaf" in an ovenproof dish - I'd say enough for 4-6 people to have a small serving each as a side dish. I used three packets on Thanksgiving this year and we still have some left over in the fridge.

As for the ingredients, I see they're not mentioned in the main product listing, so for anyone who's interested, here they are:

Wheat Flour
Dried Onion (15%)
Vegetable Oils
Dried Sage (2%)
Dried Parsley
Raising Agents (E503, E500)
Malt Extract (Barley)

In short: I'm very glad Paxo is avaialable in the US, as it gives me an excuse to cook double quantities of one of my favourite roast dinner accompaniments: STUFFING!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 11, 2013 4:54 PM PST

Jacobs Twiglets Original - 45g
Jacobs Twiglets Original - 45g
Offered by JoMastersUK
Price: $4.57
7 used & new from $4.56

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So... I'm Pretty Much Addicted To Twiglets..., November 22, 2011
Unlike a lot of other British staples, Twiglets are pretty hard to find in grocery stores in my area, so I'm very glad to see they're available on Amazon. They're the perfect salty, savory, flavor-filled snack and there's nothing quite like them. If you've never tried a Twiglet but happen to know what Marmite tastes like, well: Twiglets are basically crunchy little whole-wheat sticks that are coated in something that tastes very much like Marmite, although they're not actually Marmite-branded and aren't made by the same company. If you know anything about Marmite, you will know that opinions on the stuff are very polarized - you either love it or hate it, and the same goes for Twiglets. You will either think these are to die for, or your taste buds will recoil in horror at the flavor. If the idea of a tangy, salty, crunchy, savory snack (I suppose "umami" might be a useful descriptor here, come to think of it!) appeals to you, I would highly recommend giving these a try for something a bit different.

Nando Sauce Peri Pepper Xhot, 4.7 Oz, Pack Of 6
Nando Sauce Peri Pepper Xhot, 4.7 Oz, Pack Of 6
Offered by Peters Select
Price: $26.75
15 used & new from $16.56

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not "Knock-Your-Socks-Off" Hot, But Spicy, Versatile & FULL of Flavor!, November 18, 2011
First off, can I say that I LOVE Nando's? It's a peri-peri restaurant chain that has many branches worldwide and which I know and love as a favorite standby from the UK, but which has only a couple of branches in the US. Neither of those branches are within even a thousand miles of my home in Ohio, so my Nando's fixes are very few and far between. I love that their peri-peri sauces are available in the US, and buy them whenever I can as an all-purpose condiment to serve with anything and everything that could do with a bit of spicing up.

Secondly... while I LOVE these sauces, even the "extra hot" version doesn't even begin to come close to some of the sauces that real chili-heads will be used to, i.e. the ones that rate so high on the Scoville scale that you're advised to only add them to your food one minuscule drip at a time. Nando's sauces are more of the "slosh generously all over your plate" variety if you have any kind of a taste and tolerance for the burny stuff, and I tend to use it more like ketchup than a genuine "hot" sauce. That's not meant as an insult to the sauces, though - don't get me wrong, I really do love them, but I get through a whole lot more of this stuff than I do the dangerously hot sauces I buy almost entirely for the burn. Nando's peri-peri sauces are just not like that; they're meant to be enjoyed for their complex flavor rather than as a challenge, so please don't buy a bottle of this stuff expecting to have your head blown off with a single taste.

I love the Nando's Extra Hot and Hot sauces as a dip for fries and anything else that requires dunking, and it is also a firm favorite in my household when mixed liberally with a bit of mayo and/or sour cream for a spicy dipping sauce that works well with appetizers of all kinds. It works really well as a marinade for chicken, too - definitely one to try when you're grilling out.

My only "problem" (and it's not really a problem, as such) is that I get through these little bottles far too quickly. Anyone who's ever been to a Nando's restaurant will know that customers can take as many HUGE bottles (I mean, containing maybe 2-3 pints) of peri-peri sauce in any and every strength and flavor variation back to their table to apply as freely to their meal as they wish. When I try that at home I find I've emptied a $5 bottle of sauce before I know it. I just wish they'd start making it available in stores in industrial-sized bottles for dedicated Nando-lovers such as myself!

Finally, if you ever find yourself in a city that has a Nando's restaurant, I'd heartily recommend that you go along and try it out. Order some peri-peri chicken to suit your own personal chili tolerance level, a Portuguese or Brazilian beer and (my personal favorite) a bowl of their spicy mixed nuts to munch on while you wait for your order (these are SERIOUSLY hot and I love them so very, very much) and, well... enjoy! :)

No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars This One Really IS the Perfect Travel Mug!, November 13, 2011
I recently found myself needing to replace my trusty-but-uncleanable OXO Liquiseal Travel Mugs after a particularly stomach-turning experience when I unscrewed and disassembled the leakproof lid and found all kinds of revolting lifeforms thriving within. I'm very picky when it comes to travel mugs (and my husband even more so) and am forever considering and then rejecting the various mugs I find for sale in stores, usually because they won't fit in our cup holders or because they have annoying handles or because I don't like the lip/opening and can tell they would be annoying to drink from and most likely result in coffee spilled all over my clothes. I already own several different mugs I've received as gifts that seem to be especially designed to ensure you pour more coffee down your front than you ever get in your mouth, so this is one thing I wish to avoid when making a purchase!

Enter the Thermos Stainless King travel mugs. I already own a couple of the Stainless Food Jars from this range and have had great experiences with them (really good quality and nicely designed, plus they keep soup piping hot for HOURS!), so when I realized Thermos also made Stainless King travel mugs, they caught my eye at once and I didn't need much convincing.

When I received the mugs the first thing I did was check that the lids really can be fully disassembled so that they can be cleaned thoroughly. The answer is that yes, they can, and it's VERY easy. No screwdrivers needed, and unlike with the OXO mugs, these are actually designed to be taken apart, and come with instructions advising you to do so and showing you how. Basically you just twist a little knob on the underside of the lid, pull out the sealing part of the lid, remove the gaskets, give everything a good clean, and put it back together again. For everyday cleaning I just remove the base of the lid and give everything a good rinse under the hot tap, but each piece is going to get cleaned individually once a week and the design is so good that it will only take a couple of minutes including disassembling/reassembling the lid.

Now that I've got the cleaning part out of the way, let me say that we LOVE these mugs. We've been using them for a couple of months now and are seriously impressed with them. Just as with the Stainless King food jars, these mugs are really nicely designed and great-looking. The shiny finish is a bluish-purple, so dark it's almost black. The stainless steel lid has a curved, rounded lip that is comfortable to drink from and results neither in coffee spilled on your clothes nor coffee collecting in the rim of the lid after each sip. These mugs fit perfectly in the cup holders in our car, although they do occasionally clank annoyingly together while we're driving - a fault of the cup holders rather than the mugs!

The leakproof seal in the lids of these mugs seems to work very well. I haven't had any accidental knockings-over so far, but I did try out the seal on one of the mugs before I even poured coffee into it for the first time by filling it up, screwing the lid tightly shut, and turning it upside-down over the sink. I gave it a good shake, and nothing came out. A good sign. Since then I've brought mine home from work in my lunch bag plenty of times (upside-down, on its side, thrown in the car whichever way it happens to land) without spilling so much as a single drop. These lids screw in so far and so tightly that you can be confident they'll keep your coffee in the mug where it belongs. Just make sure you twist the latch on the top of the lid to the "CLOSE" position before you try this! The mug has a simple open/close mechanism with a rotating lever on the top of the lid that you twist from "close" to "open" when you want to drink. If you flip it back to "close" again between sips your coffee will stay hot even longer, if that matters to you. The open/close mechanism is clearly marked so you'll know which setting is which.

The first time we used these mugs, I made coffee in the morning and we sipped it as we drove to lunch. Left the mugs in the car while we ate, and the coffee was still hot when we got back in the car. That's only to be expected, but we were very impressed to find it STILL hot around five hours later when we came back from spending the rest of the day and evening at a theme park with my stepdaughter. That's around seven hours since I first made the coffee. The manufacturer's claim is that these mugs will keep liquids hot for up to five hours and cool for up to nine. My coffee wasn't as hot after seven hours as when I first made it, but it was still perfectly drinkable. After riding rollercoasters for the previous few hours I was more in the mood for a glass or two of wine to calm my nerves, but oh well - I made do with hot coffee instead. I regularly get to work having taken only a few sips of my coffee, get dragged away from my desk (sans coffee mug) for a couple of hours, only to be pleasantly surprised when I come back to find a still-hot mug of coffee sitting on my desk. These things really do work well.

Incidentally, if you DO want to keep your drink very hot for an extended period of time, try doing what I do when using the Thermos food jars for soup. Boil the kettle, fill the mug with boiling water (to just below the 'fill line' that marks the point the lid screws down to), screw the lid on tightly, and leave it to sit for a few minutes while you make your coffee. Then discard the hot water, replace with the coffee, screw on the lid, make sure the open/close lever is in the 'closed' position, and you are guaranteed a mug of coffee that will be just as hot when you drink it hours later as it was when you poured it into the mug. I haven't bothered with pre-heating our mugs so far as we start drinking our coffee right away, so we don't really have any need for it to be hot five hours later as it will be all gone by that point anyway!

In case it's not obvious, I am really pleased with these mugs - very happy with this purchase!

Chantal Classic Individual 5 Inch Pie Dish, Glossy Apple Red
Chantal Classic Individual 5 Inch Pie Dish, Glossy Apple Red

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Little Pie Dish!, November 13, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
As soon as the weather begins to get cold, my thoughts turn to winter comfort food, and pot pies have to be close to the top of the list of my favorite cold-weather things to cook. Instead of making one big pie I decided to try individual ones, for a few reasons. First, having a smaller surface area to deal with means I'm less likely to end up with the pastry crust sinking into the pie filling and getting soggy. Second, I like the idea of serving each person's pie to them on a plate in its own dish: much neater and more attractive than scooping out a serving from a bigger pie dish. Third, it's possible to make minor (or even major, if you're so inclined) adjustments to the recipe to suit each person's preferences. In my case it's a real bonus as it means I get to have mushrooms in my pie. I love mushrooms, my husband can't stand them, and the result is that I rarely get to eat them unless we're eating out or for some reason I'm cooking for myself. A chicken pie without mushrooms is no pie at all as far as I'm concerned, and this way I can add a few slices just before mine goes into the oven - a definite bonus!

Anyway - I ordered and received two of these little pie dishes last week and am very pleased with them. The quality seems very good and they are exactly what I was looking for. I used them a few days ago to make chicken pot pies (photo of my husband's one attached attached under "customer images", although you can't actually see the pie dish beneath all the pastry!) and they were a GREAT success! I used ready-roll puff pastry and blind-baked the inner crust in the dishes before adding the filling and putting the lattice pastry crust on top. Baked them until they were puffy and golden on the top, and I couldn't quite believe how well they turned out. The dishes kept the pies hot while we were eating, then cleaned up easily in the dishwasher afterwards. No more huge pot pies for me... I'll be ordering a couple more of these little beauties and going the individual route from now on! Next up.... individual apple pies. Yum.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 26, 2011 10:31 AM PST

rooCASE Neoprene Sleeve Case Cover for HP EliteBook 2560p LJ459UT 12.1-Inch Laptop- Dual Pocket Black
rooCASE Neoprene Sleeve Case Cover for HP EliteBook 2560p LJ459UT 12.1-Inch Laptop- Dual Pocket Black

4.0 out of 5 stars Snugly protective, well-made, and more than a little, well.... stinky!, November 7, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I bought this neoprene sleeve to protect a compact HP laptop (the EliteBook 2560p) when travelling. I've been using an ancient neoprene sleeve for years with my Apple laptops and love the way they give just enough protection to cushion against shocks, prevent scrapes and dings, and avoid foreign objects working their way into any nooks and crannies without the need for a separate laptop bag; you can just zip your laptop into its cushiony sleeve and tuck it in your carry-on, backpack or holdall and rest assured that it should be safe from accidental damage.

I did a bit of searching to find a sleeve that would work for the HP 2560p and this rooCASE looked very promising. Having received it and tried it out for a few days, I can say that it's exactly what I'm looking for except for one small issue that I hope will resolve itself. The case seems to be very well-made, and although I've not had a proper chance to put it through its paces and see how it holds up, it seems very nicely constructed and strong, sturdily-put together and likely to give my laptop the protection I'm looking for. It fits the laptop perfectly - it zips up easily but is a snug fit rather than a loose, baggy one. The neoprene is thick and yet 'squishy' at the same time, giving plenty of cushioning between the laptop and anything I'd really rather not come into contact with it. It's easy to get the laptop in and out of the sleeve as it has a double zipper that goes halfway down each side. There are a couple of business/credit card pockets on the inside, and a zippered pocket on the outside that should be useful for keeping stray papers in one place. Really, it does exactly what I want it to.

There's only one thing preventing me from giving it five stars, and that's the smell. Oh dear God, the smell!! I understand that it's quite normal for neoprene to be a bit on the stinky side but really, I do NOT remember ever encountering anything like this before. This thing has the most overpowering stench that, four or five days after I received and unwrapped it, doesn't show even the tiniest sign of abating. It's a bad, bad, dizzy-making, nausea-inducing chemical reek that seriously has me on the verge of a migraine whenever I'm in the vicinity, and for a good while afterwards. I moved the sleeve to a far-flung, uninhabited corner of my office to give it a chance to air out, but the vapors don't really seem to be getting any less potent and my colleagues are still just as unimpressed! I don't want to try Febreze (or similar) as I get the impression I just need to let the chemicals dissipate on their own rather than try to disguise them, but good grief... somebody please tell me this eye-wateringly terrible smell will go away sometime soon?! I guess this is my punishment for rolling my eyes all those times over the years that I've seen people talking about having to send back Kindle covers because they have such a nasty chemical smell. This is karma in action.... now I know how those people felt!

In all seriousness... unbearable stench aside, this seems like a great item and I'm really pleased with it. Now, if the stinky stink would just be so kind as to vanish, this thing would be absolutely perfect and possibly even five-star-worthy!

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