Author Archives: theoptimistichousehusband

About theoptimistichousehusband

Hi! Thanks for stumbling upon my blog. I'm Nick, and I'm thrilled that you're here! As you can see, I'm the optimistic househusband! I love to cook, well, really, all things food. I love reading about it, watching it, talking about it, making it, thinking about it, but above all...eating it! When I get a new cookbook, I approach it like a new novel. I get so excited to curl up with it, read the "stories", get absorbed in the "plot", and I just can't put it down. And I love to try out those new recipes. And they turn out so much better now that I realized my oven runs 50-75 degrees high (who knew...first tip)! I also love to play in the dirt. I know, you're picturing a grown man in his 30's outside, covered in mud, just a mess. And sometimes, that's what I look like. I would say I love gardening, but really, I think I'm more just playing in the dirt most of the time. I do venture into vegetables, fruits, and flowers. Sometime to great success, and sometimes, well, I'm embarrassed to show some of those pictures. But I do try, every year...and hopefully this year will be better than last! And I love to decorate and play around the house. I love to change paint colors, furniture, curtains, pictures, whatever. I like to check out houses for sale, think about what I would do with an unlimited budget, or really, just the budget to buy the house. And I love furniture stores, shopping for house stuff, you name it, I love it! So, as I say...househusband. And I'm optimistic that I can get any of it done while also trying to maintain a career in marketing. But we'll see how it goes. Oh, and I guess I should tell you a little more ABOUT me! Well, I think I said I'm in my 30's. I live in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which is a small town about 40 minutes outside of Philadelphia. It's also the mushroom capital of the world...in case you didn't know! :) And being from this area, I love the Jersey Shore (the place, not the show)! I come from Italian roots, so that definitely influences my cooking (even when I try not to make Italian, it seems to come out that way). Oh and I love TV! So many great shows out there, and definitely some trash too. I'm a Scorpio...wait, did I go too far? Let me know how you like my blog. And I'd love to hear about your favorite foods, recipes, plants to grow, decorating ideas, etc. Comment away! If you'd like to send me a message, feel free at theoptimistichousehusband at gmail dot com. Happy reading!

Ending the Summer with Orzo with Roasted Vegetables!

It’s hard to believe that the summer is drawing to a close, although I have to say, the cool weather is a welcome change. I keep seeing leaves falling from our many trees, and it’s getting me excited for fall. However, I know, there still are a few weeks left. As your squeezing in those final summer get togethers and Labor Day picnics, take a look at this recipe! Orzo with roasted vegetables is a delicious alternative to potato salad or cole slaw, or whatever you normal take. It’s pretty easy, travels great, and is absolutely delicious.

Peel and chop 1 small eggplant into 1 inch pieces. Chop 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, and 1 red onion into 1 inch pieces as well. Throw them all on a sheet pan. Add 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat all of the vegetables in the oil, then spread out on the pan. Cook at 425 for 40 minutes until browned. Turn them once with a spatula about half way through so they don’t stick and get evenly browned.Ready for RoastingGetting ThereDone!

Meanwhile, cook ½ lb. orzo according to the package directions. If you’re not familiar with orzo, it’s a pasta, similar in shape to rice. You can find it in your pasta aisle. Once it’s cooked, drain and add it to a large bowl. Add the roasted vegetables when they are done, and any delicious liquid that may have accumulated in the pan. Make the dressing by combining 1/3 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons), 1/3 cup olive oil, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine, then add to the other hot ingredients. Stir, and let them all combine while they cool to room temperature.OrzoRoasted VeggiesJuicing LemonsLemon JuiceOlive OilPepperAlmost Ready

If you’re going to use the salad in a day or so, you can cover and store this salad in the refrigerator before adding the rest. The day you’re going to serve, take the salad out of the refrigerator several hours early to allow to come to room temperature. Add 4 minced scallions (both white and green parts), ¼ cup toasted pine nuts, ¾ lbs. crumbled feta, and 15 basil leaves, thinly sliced.ScallionsBasilPine NutsFetaCombined

Toss everything to combine, and there you go. The recipe is from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, and really is a delicious one. Give it a try at your next get together. I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews, and lots of requests for the recipe!

Delicious Peanut Butter Brownies

Last Sunday, we had dinner at a friend’s house. As is often the case, I was in charge of bringing the dessert. It was a busy weekend, so when Sunday came around, I knew exactly what I would make. They’re portable. They’re easy. And they’re absolutely delicious…peanut butter brownies.

You may remember, a while back I wrote about candy bar brownies, which are amazing. This is a little twist, taking them even further! For the peanut butter brownies, you need a batch of brownie batter. Feel free to make your own from scratch, or use a store-bought brownie mix. Either way, they’re so doctored up, they’ll be delicious.

To the brownie batter, fold in a 12 oz bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup miniatures, chopped. And I know, it may seem like a lot, but trust me, you want the whole bag! Pour the batter into a greased 13×9 inch pan and bake as you normally would. While the brownies are baking, we’re going to take the next step to put these over the top.Reese'schoppedready to foldbatterbakedThree words…peanut – butter – frosting! Yes, it’s amazing, and the perfect addition to these brownies. Beat 1 stick softened butter until creamy and smooth. Add 1 cup creamy peanut butter and thoroughly combine. Add 2 cups powdered sugar and mix until combined. If the frosting is too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons milk until the desired consistency is reached.butterpeanut butterpowdered sugarreadyOnce the brownies are cooked and cooled, cut into squares. Pipe each square with a big dollop of frosting. I just used a plastic bag with the corner cut, but feel free to be fancy.browniescutready for frostingdoneNeedless to say, these brownies are always a huge hit. They are perfect for the peanut butter addict, or, really, whoever had taste buds! 🙂 Enjoy!

Tomatoes and Cucumbers…the Fruits of the Season!

Wow, where has the time gone? I can’t believe it’s already August. And I can’t believe that it’s been so long since I’ve had a blog post. I guess vacations, cleaning up the overgrown yard of the new house, and every day life got in the way. So sorry, I’ll do better, I promise!

The warm weather and humidity continues in this area, Heat waves and thunderstorms have been a regular occurrence, it seems like since June. The only good thing is that the produce has been delicious and abundant. During this time of the summer, tomatoes and cucumbers are especially delicious, and they make the perfect summer salad.

For me, nothing says summer like cucumber and tomato salad. With the addition of some basil and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette, it’s the perfect side for any meal. Not to mention, it’s great to keep the oven and stove off!

To start, use about equal parts cucumbers and tomatoes. I used 2 cucumbers and 3 large, ripe tomatoes (I know there are 4 in the picture, but I only used 3). Core the tomatoes, and slice into chunks. Add to a large bowl. Peel the cucumbers, and slice into rounds. Add to the same bowl. Finally, add fresh basil. Use 10 basil leaves, thinly sliced, and add to the same bowl.tomatoesslicedchoppedcucumberpeeledready for dressingbasilNext, grab a small bowl to make the vinaigrette. Use equal parts Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar. I used about 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar. Whisk the two to combine. Add about 3 times the amount of olive oil. I used about 3 tablespoons olive oil. Whisk until emulsified. Add salt and pepper. ingredientsmustardbalsamicPour the vinaigrette over the vegetables and stir to combine.

My favorite way to enjoy this salad is after it’s sat for about 30 minutes, so the juices of the tomato combine with the vinaigrette. One caveat though, be sure to let the salad marinate on the counter. The salad is best at room temperature, and it really is delicious. Fresh, crunchy, and tangy…just perfect!

Enjoy this last month of summer before it’s gone. And stay cool!

Celebrate the 4th with Roasted Strawberry Sauce…and Ice Cream!

The 4th of July is a great time of year. Summer is in full swing, flowers are blooming, and the farmer’s market is overflowing with produce. To celebrate the holiday this year, I’m making roasted strawberry sauce served over creamy vanilla ice cream. It’s the perfect combination, and the cool ice cream is a welcome treat for the hot July weather.

The roasted strawberry sauce is easy, and it’s a great way to use up strawberries that might be turning past their prime. The strawberries cook down with brown sugar and create a sweet, ruby red, carmelly (I know, inventing words again) sauce that’s perfect with ice cream. And the best thing is, there are only 2 ingredients!

Take 3 cups strawberries that have been hulled and quartered. Spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet. Trust me, the parchment will make clean up so easy! Top the strawberries with 1 cup brown sugar. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 25 minutes until soft and syrupy.

strawberriesin baking sheetbrown sugarready for the ovensauce readysauceeasy clean upThat’s it! Pretty simple, and absolutely delicious. Drown some vanilla ice cream in this sauce and dig in. I hope you have an amazing 4th of July, and buckets full of ice cream! 🙂 Enjoy!

enjoy!

Crumb Cake at the Shore!

We spend a lot of time at the shore during the summer. I’m fortunate enough to have had grandparents that were incredibly insightful and built a shore house 40 years ago, before the property values soared. So, every year we head down as often as possible. Some friends will harass us that they won’t see us until Labor Day, but I think they’re just jealous! 🙂

When we’re down the shore with my niece and nephews, breakfast often includes crumb cake. My brother will head to Mallon’s in Avalon, NJ, before anyone wakes up. It’s this delicious crumbly cake with tons of cinnamon, brown sugar topping. It’s delicious! This weekend, we’re taking my 3 nephews to the shore, so I thought I’d attempt to make a homemade version for the boys!

In a small bowl, whisk 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.floursugarbaking powdersaltmixedIn a medium bowl, whisk 1 large egg, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tablespoons canola oil, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Once it’s mixed thoroughly, add the dry ingredients. Fold to combine.eggsmilkcanola oilvanillawhiskedadding flourbatterGrease and flour a 13×9 inch pan. Spread the batter evenly in the pan, then set aside.grease and flour the panready for the battercake layerIn the small bowl that you used for the flour mixture, add 2 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup light brown sugar, packed, and 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and whisk to combine. Add 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled, and stir with a rubber spatula to create large crumbs. Sprinkle the crumbs over the batter. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. more flourbrown sugarcinnamonready for butterbuttermeltedadding buttercrumb toppingready for the ovenWhen the cake is done and cooled, dust the top with powdered sugar. Use a sifter or strainer to sprinkle the sugar all over. Slice and dig in!ready for powdered sugarI found this recipe from 2002 for “New York Crumb Cake.” It came from food.com, and it’s a delicious cake, very similar to Mallon’s. The best part is, there is more topping than cake! Enjoy!

Steak House Salad for Summer

It seems like summer’s been here for a while already. Even though Memorial Day weekend started off cool, we had quite the heat wave last week with high temperatures and humidity. With the high temperatures, no one really wants to spend hours in the kitchen preparing dinner. That’s why salads are my go to dinner option in the summer. If you’re looking for a hearty and delicious salad, give this steak house salad a try.

To start, cut 1 onion in half then thinly slice. I like to use a sweet onion like Vidalia, but any will do. Cook the onion in 2 tablespoons over medium high heat until soft and brown, probably 5-10 minutes.onionsfried onionsWhile the onions are cooking, chop 1 head romaine lettuce into bite size pieces, then add to a large bowl. Add 1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half. lettucegrape tomatoeslettuce and tomatoWhen the onions are cooked, pour them over the lettuce and tomatoes. Heat a grill pan, or the pan you just used for the onions if you don’t want to dirty too many dishes, or better yet the grill, over medium high heat. Season a few steaks (I used 3) with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Cook just a few minutes on each side until cooked on the outside but still pink in the center. I used New York strip, but feel free to use your favorite cut of steak. Once cooked, set them on a cutting board to rest.with onionssteakrestingMake the dressing. Start with 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard. Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and whisk to combine. Next add 3 tablespoons olive oil, and whisk until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste.DijonbalsamicdressingPour the dressing over the salad, then top with 4 oz crumbled blue cheese. Mix to combine. To serve, slice the steak. Serve the salad in large bowls and top with slices of steak.adding dressingblue cheesemixedslicedIf you’re looking for a summer salad that’s also filling and flavorful, this is the one. The combinations of fried onions and steak are perfect together. Combine the blue cheese, and it’s just perfect. And, to top it all off, with a good amount of protein, you won’t be craving a snack in an hour, I promise! 🙂

Seafood Macaroni Salad for Memorial Day!

It’s hard to believe Memorial Day is already here. It seems like spring just flew by, but I’m thrilled to celebrate the start of summer. Even though it looks like it will be a little cold, the weekend looks great. I’ll be spending the weekend with family and friends at the shore. Whether you’re staying at home or heading out-of-town, I’m sure for many the weekend will include a barbecue. This macaroni salad is a great addition to any barbecue or picnic. The recipe is easy, and the addition of seafood means you’re not just bringing the same old macaroni salad. It’s a sweet, crunchy, delicious side for your next barbecue.

To start, chop 2 bell peppers (I used a yellow and red but any will do), 1 small sweet onion, and 2 ribs of celery. Set them aside.pepperschopped peppersonionscelerychopped veggiesFor the seafood, you’ll need 3 small cans of small shrimp and 3 small cans of lump white crab meat. Drain the seafood well and set aside.shrimpcrabmeatNext, make the dressing. Combine a 15 oz jar of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, salt, and pepper. If the dressing is too thick, you can always add a little milk to thin it out.mayosugarvinegardressingalmost readyFor the pasta, I like to use elbow. It just seems like macaroni salad should always include elbow macaroni. Cook 2 lbs elbow macaroni according to package directions. Drain, then add back to the pot with cold tap water and drain again. Normally, I never suggest “rinsing” the pasta, but for macaroni salad, it works to cool the pasta down. elbowsFinally, mix everything together in the pot you boiled the pasta (no need to dirty something else). Add the pasta, veggies, seafood, and dressing, and stir thoroughly to combine. Give it a taste for seasoning, then refrigerate until cool. It’s best if you can make the salad a day before serving so the flavors can meld, but if you’re in a pinch, just make sure everything is cold.adding pastaadding veggiesadding seafoodadding dressingdoneI hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend full of family and friends, and maybe some sun! Enjoy!