The Easiest Way to Getting What You Want

You know when people ask you what flavor of ice cream they should bring back home from the grocery store, or what you want for your birthday this year? Are you one of those people who has the emotional flexibility to answer these (a.k.a, life’s big questions) with, “I don’t care, surprise me!

I’m not.

It’s not that I’m as anti-surprise as certain people. Maybe it’s a slight bias towards control freakism, or maybe it’s just that I know what I like. Why let someone “surprise” you with strawberry or another unfortunate flavor when chocolate peanut butter is readily available?

A part of me wishes I could be more carefree, less concerned about retaining a degree of authority over situations. But then again – if we’re rationalizing behaviors here – being decisive can be just as helpful to those asking the questions.

I learned my lesson one birthday a few years back (when I urged a certain someone to “surprise me” and was later presented a pretty, but pretty impractical, ceramic teapot): specificity is the real spice of life. In the years since, with this particular person, I’ve taken a more direct approach to answering questions big and small. And that is how you wind up with a life full of DVDs, immersion blenders and one engagement ring that were precisely what you wanted.

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Food Fights: It’s What’s For Dinner

I’d say that food is to blame for at least fifty percent of the arguments between my boyfriend and me.

Not because he’s a particular eater (completely and absolutely to the contrary), and not because Food fightshe has some weird dietary restrictions that would prevent us from indulging in meat, cheese, gluten or wine. Not because he orders on my behalf at restaurants, thereby rustling the jimmies of the little feminist gremlin that lives inside of me (it doesn’t.)

The spats center on more narrow issues (that always arise right around meal time) like,

It’s almost noon on Sunday; I exercised and showered and I’m starving. Just pick a place for lunch because asking me what I feel like eating will certainly send me into a fit of hanger.”

What the hell are we going to do with this boneless chicken I bought (that doesn’t involve multiple bowls and a dredging assembly line and 97 dishes)?”

If they’re not a byproduct of my regular pre-feeding time blood sugar dips, these arguments are almost always about what we’re going to do with the stupid poultry we buy every week.

It’s like we both know and are deeply offended by the harsh reality that we can’t eat hot dogs or pasta or guacamole every damn night. So we unleash the mutual frustration on each other.

It makes a little bit of sense. Right?

The resolution to these food-driven disputes is often abrupt and final. After wasted minutes of Google searching, one of us will definitively announce, “That’s it, we’re going to Pret [A Manger], now,” or, “Leave me alone. I’m doing sweet and sour meatballs.”

And then we go about our eating or our cooking and everyone’s blood pressure, or sugar, goes back to its balanced, rightful place.

To you, the following may look like any old recipe on a blog. But know that this was also the very necessary halt to what could’ve been a very ugly Monday night (grocery list-writing night) tiff.

Sweet & Sour (Like All Great Relationships) Meatballs
Makes ~12 dinner-sized meatballs. Adapted from The Neelys/The Food Network.

1 (15-17 oz) can tomato sauce
2/3 c chili sauce (If you happen to have Sweet Chili Sauce on hand, you could do a nice combo  of that + regular chili sauce)
1/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c orange juice
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 lb ground turkey (or beef)
1 shallot, minced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
2/3 c panko breadcrumbs
2/3 c grated parmesan cheese
1 egg, beaten
Salt, pepper & crushed red pepper

Preheat your oven to 350ºF.

Sauce making: Mix all 6 ingredients in a saucepan and simmer (don’t boil) while you go to work on the meat.

Ball handling: Combine everything in a large mixing bowl, adjusting the salt/pepper/red pepper to your liking. Get your (super clean) hands in there because it’s the best and only way. Form the mixture into slightly smaller than stress ball-sized meatballs. Of course, you could always make them smaller/yield more.

Arrange the meatballs in a single layer in a large baking pan (or two mid-sized pans if you’re ill-equipped) and top evenly with the simmered sauce. Cover the pan(s) in foil and bake for 35 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes longer.

Eat happily and apologize for transgressions on a full stomach.