from the file pit: rocky road cake

29 Jul

Sometimes you have an idea, and before you can stop yourself you tell other people about this idea, and then later, once you have time to reflect, you’re honestly not sure if your idea is a good one, or if maybe next time you should shut the hell up and not tell the Internets that you’re going to do something, because now you have to do it whether you like it or not.

Unless you’re talking about training for a half marathon.

But! When I finally reached into the file pit because I was so fed up with myself and was just like, “OH FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND DECENT, JUST PICK A F*&$ING RECIPE ALREADY AND GET ON WITH IT,” this recipe was literally the first one in the pile, which I am taking to be a sign that this idea of working my way through the recipe files my younger self hoarded many moons ago was a good one. Also, the fact that there even exists a recipe for Rocky Road Cake is proof that Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit all love me and want me to be happy. Add that to the fact that it was on top of all the other hundreds of recipes, and well, clearly I am brilliant.

The recipe is so simple, though, that I’m not actually sure it constitutes as a recipe. It’s basically like, “mix together some boxed devil’s food cake, some water, some other stuff, and beat that for a couple of minutes, then stir in the chocolate chips and marshmallows and peanuts and WAA-LAA YOU HAVE A CAKE AND YOU CAN EAT IT TOO, SUCK IT, MARIE ANTOINETTE.”

Sorry for the crappy photos taken on my phone.

Sorry for the crappy photos taken on my phone.

I have no idea where I found this recipe, but I have a hunch that my old boss had a book of cake recipes that she brought in for me to check out once, which I did, as evidenced by the fact that there are several similar-looking Xeroxed pages in my file pit, all with different, luscious cake recipes. If this recipe did not come from my old boss, then your guess is as good as mine from whence it came. Maybe it came from the Holy Spirit. I dunno, I’ve never been super clear on what He/She/It actually does, but maybe part of its heavenly mission is to drop cake recipes into unsuspecting file pits. I’m not going to claim I know what goes on beyond my eyes and human limitations.

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably already seen this photo. Oh well.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably already seen this photo. Oh well.

With the addition of the chocolate chips, this cake has a fabulously soft and moist crumb. The peanuts add a nice salty crunch, and work better than I think almonds would, as in a traditional rocky road ice cream. Also, it’s a bundt cake, and who doesn’t love a good bundt? What is incredibly disappointing, however, is that the mini marshmallows melt completely into the cake (adding to that good crumb) so you have none of the lovely bits of mallow like you get in the ice cream. Which, coincidentally, is my favorite part of the ice cream.

Would I make this again? Yes, because it’s too easy not to. Would I figure out a way next time to get the marshmallows to not melt into oblivion? For sure. Do I think Young McPolish was right to throw this recipe in the file pit? Absolutely.

Again with the crappy, cell phon photo. So sorry.

Again with the crappy cell phone photo. So sorry.

photo friday: well loved

17 Jul

I pulled this gem from the pile as I was recipe-filing down memory lane earlier this week.



I believe it was originally a Rachel Ray recipe, but God knows I haven’t actually stuck to said recipe since, oh, the first time I made this. The Parm was immediately swapped out for feta, and chopped tomatoes, an entire onion, and an extra two cloves of garlic were added in, and the result was a fan favorite of many a TND.  When I think of my time living in DC, this orzo is one of the first things that comes to mind. Well, not this orzo written on the paper you see, but my aforementioned adaptation.

As this well-loved and smudged paper has always really been more of a guideline, I’m pretty sure the only reason I kept it around was because for the life of me I could never remember how much water (which I subbed instead of the prescribed stock) to use. (Which, the 1 3/4 cup of liquid was never enough anyway, and I always ended up adding at least a 1/2 cup more.) (I’m an orzo rebel!)

Nowadays I’d probably just look it up online over and over, but this was pre-smartphone era, Interwebers. I’m pretty sure I was illegally downloading songs from Limewire.*


recipe for disaster? or masterful plan? you decide.

15 Jul

Recently I’ve been trying to do my part to de-clutter our bootbox of a condo.

It’s not going well.

As anyone who has tried to de-clutter anything ever, you understand the complete high you start off with, doing hot laps around your space and sweeping the obvious things to get rid of into the garbage or recycling or Good Will bags. And after those first 10 minutes, it gets a little harder.

I’m sure professional organizers/life gurus/normal people would tell you that honestly, you really don’t need it—whatever it is—even though you have spent the past five years since whatever the thing is that came into your life convincing yourself that you do. And they’re most likely right. And most likely if Swede and I actually listened to them and actually kept ONLY the things we used, our bootbox of a condo would be a minimalist’s paradise. Think of how much space we’d gain just by getting rid of the cats!

I joke.


Anyway, in an effort to de-clutter, or at least acknowledge the clutter (Hello, Clutter. How are you today? Dusty? Great, great. Carry on.), I spent some time the other day culling through my cookbooks and recipe files that are stacked and piled and generally running amok in various corners of our home. And do you know what I discovered?

I have a lot of freaking recipes.

And I think I’ve actually made approximately only 2.794 percent of them.

No, I don’t know why that is, either. Or why I’ve instead, in all my cooking, chosen to use recipes that are from elsewhere, and not in these piles.

Because I mean piles, you guys. PILES of recipes that I printed out or scrawled on ripped out sheets of notebook paper years ago, as in before I even turned 30, while surfing the web, probably while I was supposed to be doing something more productive, like not accumulating a metric ton of shit I don’t need but now can’t seem to part with, such as mismatched socks and various notebooks filled with ideas for books I most likely will not get around to writing unless I quit my life full-tilt and spend every minute from now until my dying day tapping at the keyboard.

A smattering of the recipes that make up the pit.

A smattering of the recipes taking up residence in our bootbox. 

And some of these recipes look phenomenal, which makes it all the more devastating to me. Rocky Road cocoa puff treats? Yes, please. Coconut curry braised short ribs? Why am I not eating these right now? Chocolate éclair torte? Sweet Holy Mother, bless me for I have sinned in not making this. Cheesy chicken roll ups? Ehhmmm…well, okay, something about it must have appealed to me at some point so I’ll give it a go.

See what I mean? And that’s just a few of—no joke—hundreds of recipes that twentysomething McPolish threw in the file pit.

So I made an executive decision, friends, right then and there. A decision I look forward to keeping and tackling: Instead of being sad about all the recipes I haven’t made (yet hoard like a fatalist with soup for the coming rapture) (why on earth do people think their bomb shelter will survive a rapture?) I’m making a concerted effort to, actually, you know, MAKE these recipes. I’m going to work my way through my recipe files, and see what was what in the land of aged 25-28-year-old-McPolish’s tastebuds.

I can’t promise the results will be pretty. Or tasty. (Still curious about the cheesy chicken rollups. And by curious I mean mildly horrified at the prospect.) But by God I WILL spend some quality kitchen time wondering what the Sister Mary Fudge my younger self was thinking!*

*And maybe when that’s all said and done, we’ll finally tackle the Pinterest boards.**


photo friday: the great (garlic) e(scape)

10 Jul
Behold! The garlic scape can cause you great alarm and consternation in your meal planning!

Behold! The garlic scape can cause you great alarm and consternation in your meal planning!

Gad, isn’t summer produce just magnificent? And panic inducing?

The other week I was at the farmer’s market and stopped by a stall that had these absolutely lovely boxes of garlic scapes sitting there. Just sitting right there, their curly, Medusa’s-hair-like selves beckoning me to buy them. So I did, because A) if produce is talking to you, you should probably listen, and 2) garlic scapes are notorious for being here one minute and gone the next, not dissimilar to most of the guys you dated in your 20s. So in a panic, before I could think twice about what to do with them but fearing of missing out on garlic scape season, I grabbed a box and handed over my $4 to the vendor, and went about my merry way.

I thought and thought, and then decided to incorporate these scapes into a dinner I had for friends later that same week, but, well, wine. There was wine. A lot of wine. So the scapes got pushed to the side, because when there is wine there is also talking–so much talking–and really, we’re all just lucky dinner got on the table at all. Trying to also get a mess of garlic scapes into an edible format was not even remotely going to happen.

On the plus side, so the elusive scapes wouldn’t go to waste, I whirred them into a pesto last weekend, which is now taking up space in my freezer until I decide to use it. Which I’m pretty sure just means I have to have another dinner party. And maybe handle the garlic scapes before we open the wine.

things i’ve been meaning to tell you: july 2015

8 Jul

1) As with the “because cilantro” idiom, can we also stop with the incomplete, “That moment you [fill in the blank]”?

Example 1: “That moment you pee your pants.”

Example 2: “The moment your child smears chocolate pudding on the dog and then solves an equation that would make Will Hunting proud.”

Example 3: “That time you showed up at Mariano’s with your shirt on backwards.”

What ABOUT any of these moments am I supposed to care about? Are you trying to tell me you’re having an issue with incontinence? Was something funny? Are you concerned about the chocolate being bad for the dog? Are you concerned the chocolate is bad for your child? Doesn’t everyone show up at the grocery store with their clothes askew at some point in life?

I need context, people. If you’re not going to give your statement some context, I can’t even pretend to care about or relate to it. It’s an incomplete thought, and while I am a Pisces and a bit psychic, I cannot read your mind. I get that you HAD that moment, but how did it make you FEEL? Anxious? Afraid? Stabby? Overcome with manic gladness? What HAPPENED?

Unless you tell me, it’s entirely lost on me, and what we’re left with is the fact that you’re a horrible storyteller.

2) About six weeks ago I started getting allergy shots, because I am allergic to the entire planet, and I live in a very small space with beasts.

Before you can get allergy shots, you have to have scratch testing done to see what you’re allergic to and to what degree (as measured by how big the welts are on your forearms from the scratches).

Turns out I’m very allergic to everything, with the exception of mold and feathers.

Moldy chickens for everyone!

Anyway, like I said I’m six weeks into the shots (you have to go weekly for the first six to eight months), and I do think they’re helping. The amount of money I’ve spent on Claritin D has decreased tremendously (sorry, Bayer stockholders), and that alone is a good indicator that the shots have a fair chance at success.

I will say, though, it’s a little disconcerting that I have to carry an Epi pen with me to every appointment. I completely understand why—God forbid I go into anaphylactic shock—but it freaks me out a little nonetheless. It makes my environmental allergies seem so much more nefarious than they did before. It’s as if every dust mite is suddenly going to rise up against me and then join forces with the trees and grasses until they dominate the land, and me with only my Epi pen and Claritin D to fight them.

At least I’ve got the moldy chickens on my side.

3) All of my clothing pockets smell like dog treats.

(It makes me very popular at the dog park.)

(We’re training Juniper, you see.)

(She did great during the six weeks of formal training classes she had!)

(And she does great at home!)

(Not so much out in public, because she has the attention span of a gnat, and goes batshitcrackers when another dog walks by on a leash.)

Which means that every time I grab a Kleenex out of my pocket—see the arforementioned environmental allergy known to man—I get a strong whiff of “delicious duck.”

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing.

I’m not saying it’s a good thing, either.

But if I had to choose, I’d say it’s definitely better than the roasted chicken. Duck is just so much more elegant.

4) There is a blind man who rides the same bus I do, sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the evening. Every time I see him, no matter what time of day, people practically jump at the chance to help him, either guiding him by the arm, or letting him know which number bus is arriving, or if there is an obstacle that might pose a problem for him.

It makes me happy.

In this city that can be simultaneously so divisive and so self-absorbed, seeing people offer up help with absolutely no expectation of anything in return is beautiful.

We need more moments like that.

photo friday: hey there, good job

3 Jul

Hey America,

We’ve had a pretty intense/good/wild/strange/sad/happy/WTF past couple of weeks. Months. 239 years. And I just wanted to say keep up the good work. I know it’s hard sometimes, and that it can really be quite sucky, and that there will never not be room for improvement.

But I think you have what it takes to go the distance, to really make it.

Happy birthday, country of mine.

I hope you like this card I made you with my mad Photoshop skillz, America. Can I call you Mer for short?

I hope you like this card I made you with my mad Photoshop skillz, America. Can I call you Mer for short?

open letters to my neighbors and neighborhood

1 Jul

Dear Neighbor In The Building Across From Us,

The red track lighting you have in your living room—of which I have a perfect view from my bedroom, because apparently neither of us believes in closing our blinds—PS, sorry about flashing you last week—is a bold choice.

I wonder if, from the inside view, it looks as discotheque-ish/devil’s lair-ish as it does from my angle? Because when the sun sets and darkness blankets the city as much as darkness can in a city, what with all the lights from cars and shops and life, the cherry red glow that emanates from your living room is quite distinct and almost seems to pulse with a life of its own.

I can’t tell if those red track lights are focused on something on your wall—I don’t see a TV, or a piece of art, so presumably they are simply focused on a blank wall? Though I do think I see the tips of plants peeking through the window, so now I’m wondering if you have some sort of greenhouse in the making going on in your loft apartment. Are you a budding horticulturalist?

Please Do Hide Your Light Under a Bushel,

Your Across the Parking Lot Neighbor, McPolish


Dear Neighbor One Floor Down and One Unit Over,

I’m sorry my dog always woofs at you every time you venture out onto the balcony to fire up the grill. It’s just that whatever you’re making smells delicious to her, much better than the kibble we feed her, even if we do douse said kibble with homemade chicken stock or mix in pureed pumpkin because God Forbid this dog eat plain kibble, what is she, an animal?

Anyway, she’s not woofing at you out of anger or because she thinks you’re going to rob us. She’s woofing because she’s demanding. Demanding that you give her some of your grilled meats. Demanding that you pay attention to her. Demanding that you just come on over here and let her give you a cuddle.

You’ll get used to it after awhile.


Your Neighbor With the Adorably Demanding Pibble, McP







Dear Neighbor at the End of the Hall,

You smoke a lot of weed.

Well, wait—I don’t actually know how MUCH you smoke, but by the smells wafting from your apartment that are smellable as soon as the elevator doors open, I can say that I know how FREQUENTLY you smoke. Which, to be fair, I’m not sure if it is actually frequent or not in comparison to pot smokers at large. So maybe frequent isn’t the right word, either. What I’m trying to say is that you smoke weed, and your neighbors know it.

And I’m not writing you this blog-letter (bletter?) to judge you about your weed consumption. I could give a shit, frankly, and I wish for your and others’ sake that pot was just made legal already. I’m writing you this letter simply to tell you….

Well, I don’t really have anything to tell you.

So, yeah.

Have a nice day.

And sorry to bother you.

Carry on.


Your Down the Hall Neighbor and Condo Board Treasurer (Why You People Entrust Me With Your Money I’ll Never Know), McPolish


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