Tuesday, March 15, 2011

honey, we have guests

i would like to present to you our very first guest post from san diego native katie hawkes, author of the world is delicious. after reading our charismatic megafauna post, she decided to write up some of her favorite things for our blog. according to katie, "some of [these things] are super cheap, some less so, but when i think about spending money i always ask myself: how many times will i use this, and if i paid a penny/a dime/some other reasonably tiny sum every time i used it, would it be worth it?  and all of these things TOTALLY are."

thanks, katie! and without further adieu, here is her list...

coconut milk. 

it's kind of weird and a lot of people don't use it because they don't know what to do with it, but here are some high points: 
1. it's vegan, if you're into that; 
2. it's freakin delicious; 
3. it can swing either sweet or savory, a rare and phenomenal bi-gustatory quality. and 4. if you're trying to impress people (and even when you're not), it makes ordinary things extraordinary. here is a list of ordinary things that are incredible with coconut milk in them:
rice (substitute for some of the water when you cook it)
oatmeal (also substitute for some of the water)
pancakes (substitute for some of the water, and then for even MORE awesomeness add chopped fruit, like apple or banana or pretty much anything)
mashed sweet potatoes (add while mashing, toss in some cinnamon/ginger and honey/brown sugar and butter - HELL YES)
any kind of sweet squash (butternut, pumpkin, etc)
soup (especially chicken broth-based ones, and ones that involve citrus ingredients)
substitute for the liquid in anything you bake (eg. banana bread)
curry (just add ready-made curry paste)
any kind of smoothie or shake (+ rum = pina colada time!)
cook/marinade chicken or any kind of seafood in it, +lime = awesome.
guava paste.  

i don't know if this is available in all grocery stores, but since i found it in a generic connecticut grocery store where you ask for quinoa and get nothing but quizzical looks, you might be surprised. it's probably in the hispanic foods section. it is mad cheap usually, like less than a dollar. AND IT IS DELICIOUS. It's kind of like solid guava jam. you slice it. it's good with cheese and crackers, melted with any kind of dessert, with cream cheese in puff pastry, and it can also add an interesting sweet/tropical note to savory things, like chicken or pork recipes. it's another one of those things that is not actually that special if you think about it (or if you're from a tropical country), but no one's ever heard of it here in the US and pretty much any use of it (even sliced and slapped onto some random hors d'oeuvre) will immediately impress people with your worldliness and culinary savoir faire. WIN.

powdered buttermilk.  

it can be found in the baking aisle usually - you may (like me) have never actually noticed it, but it's not uncommon. originally i got this from [my friend] julie, who changed my life with the pancake recipe on the side of the canister, and whose mom gave me some as a present, but then i realized that you can add it to pretty much everything you bake, and it makes things at least 70% moister/more awesome. things i've added it to include not only pancakes but also cornbread, banana bread, and various cakes and cupcakes. the internets have great ideas for stuff to do with it. just get some and see where fate leads you. your life will be better. seriously.
pure beech jersey knit sheets 
Pure Beech® Jersey Knit Sheet Set
image from bed bath & beyond
according to BB&B, "these unique sheets are made from a modal™ blend, which is a high-strength fiber regenerated from the beechwood tree of europe. the result is a fabric that is extremely soft and light as silk."   although they're a little on the pricey side, at least for me ($50 for a set of full sheets/pillowcases), they are SO WORTH IT.  and if you're super poor, like me, you really only need one set, haha. they're even softer than flannel, and much lighter.  basically if you like going to sleep at night embraced by fluffy clouds and rainbows and happiness, these are for you. CAUTION: purchase with care. if you acquire these, you may never want to get out of bed again. ever. it can be problematic.

so, REI is basically one of my favorite things in life. although known by many as the Really Expensive Item store (which, okay, it is), it gets a bad rap, and i want to clear things up. if you are at all into stuff that might even tangentially be called "outdoors-y," it is THE place to get things. here is why: 
(1). if you need a general class of thing (like hiking boots, or a backpack, or a flashlight, or a coffee mug) but are kind of clueless about what precisely will most enrich your life, the salespeople know EVERYTHING ABOUT EVERYTHING and will hang out with you for a like a million years and listen to all your needs and concerns and existential quandaries, and then recommend exactly what you need, and then (if necessary) fit you for it and make sure it's exactly right. they have no incentive to send you home with something that's not right for you because 
(2) you can return EVERYTHING. ANYTIME. after ANY AMOUNT OF TIME. and if you're a member ($20 for a lifetime membership), you don't even have to keep receipts to get a full refund or exchange. so basically once you buy something there, you have it FOREVER. oh, and i've never tried it, but i've heard that if you buy something there and lose it (and you're either a member or have the receipt), they'll give you a mad discount on a new one.  
(3) you can rent some things for really reasonable rates, like rock-climbing gear, or bike stuff, or a whole slew of things. you know, if you're just trying something out and don't want to invest in the equipment quite yet.  And lastly, 
(4) stuff is expensive, but the key is being an expert stalker (which, come on, you probably already are. right now you're reading a style blog and you probably checked facebook within the last ten minutes. who are we kidding). things go on sale all the time. there is an outlet (rei-outlet.com) which periodically has coupons (eg. extra 20% off one item), and members not only get a 10% dividend on anything they buy full-price, but there is usually a once- or twice-yearly member coupon for some percent off a full-price item.  in sum, there is rarely a reason to buy anything full-price. in the last year i have worked at a zoo and a national park, and on any given day at either of these jobs i was wearing at least 90% REI stuff. 

and that's katie's list! if you have a list you would like to submit, or even just an idea, or one single thing, send us a comment!

happy tuesday!