Slow Cooker Peanut Butter + Chocolate Candy Cake

For me, there is something so welcoming and homey when using the slow cooker. Coming home after hours at work or being at home and smelling something wonderful cooking in the kitchen – without slaving away for hours – is like walking into grandma’s house and knowing you’re going to be happy. Mom’s use of a slow cooker was best with her chili. For some reason, we always had chili in the slow cooker and I still get so excited when I walk into her house and smell that soup.

While she never made dessert with her slow cooker, I think she may try this one. In most circumstances I would say, what’s the point of making this in a slow cooker? But recently I was in a hurry to get out of the house to run some errands and didn’t have time to wait on the oven. After a little recipe tweaking, I dumped the batter in the slow cooker and went on my way. A few hours later, I returned to a delicious smelling peanut butter cake, perfectly warm and ready for my bowl. Topped with ice cream, this has become a classic for me.

To make it fitting for Valentine’s Day – which will be celebrated by me eating this whole cake – I mixed in some of my favorite candy. With or without the candy, or holiday for that matter, this cake is the homey hug you have been waiting for.

Continue Reading

Slow Cooker Carnitas Tacos

Growing up, my sister and I always loved when Mom would make tacos. During the summer, we would all be working outside in the garden or on the farm until late into the evening and tacos were an exciting thing to look forward to. I now realize tacos have a different meaning for just about anyone. And as they become more and more popular, the tacos I grew up with seem…well, drab. In Iowa – at that time – nothing was better than a combination of ground beef with taco seasoning in a soft shell topped with cheese, lettuce and salsa. I also now realize this was a super quick meal for Mom – go Mom!

Those tacos will always hold a special nostalgic place with my tastebuds, but I love to make a more elevated filling now. We all fall prey to the thought that if something is more true to a region, it’s hard and time consuming. Let me tell you something: these carnitas tacos are far from hard work! Everything is done in the slow cooker. Period.

Black beans and pork cook slowly together  and when combined with spices and salsa, they create a rich and pull-apart tender meat that’s ready to go when you are! I would never say these are authentic but they definitely are tasty!

Continue Reading

I Have a Guide For That!

Why The Gray Boxwood? Since 2012, I’ve been asked this question numerous times. It’s a good question and honestly, more times than not, I’ve wanted to hear the answer too. Then I realize I need to give the answer. When Joel and I created what has been known as The Gray Boxwood (TGB), we were searching for an outlet. More so, we were searching for a way to create something we actually want to wake up and do everyday. A name was hard to define, obviously, because it meant we needed to define what we wanted to be. As the content creator for the site, I knew I wanted to express my passion for how I live. At the time, the meek and mild version of myself thought I loved the timeless color gray and, well a boxwood shrub is always a good idea. So why not call it TGB? And so the website was created. Over the years, I decided the humble side of me doesn’t express what I want you all to see. We all come from different backgrounds and each has their own sense of home.

A farm in Iowa: it’s what I grew up with and what I know the best. Let’s be honest – I’ve never fit the mold or stereotype of a Midwestern farm boy. My hair is always sticking out and my defining look (personally, I call it expressive), I enjoy fashion, urban experiences, design and a multitude of cultural experiences. On the flip side, I’ve always found it normal that I grew up with a large vegetable and flower garden, a family that canned and preserved much of their food, a dad who knew his calling was to be a farmer and every summer day spent out in the yard, sun up to sun down.

Continue Reading

Cinnamon + Cayenne Caramel Corn

After the holiday season, I’m usually a little lost. For months – well all year, really – I’m planning the decorations, candies and cookies I’ll be making for the Christmas season. I love to over plan and prepare, it’s just in my nature. So when it all comes to an end the week after Christmas, I usually go into seclusion. Don’t let me fool you into thinking I don’t enjoy New Year’s: it is a celebration after all! Whether going to a party or hosting your own, quick munchies are always needed along with a good cocktail. This sweet and spicy caramel corn will leave everyone craving more. To top off the evening, I love to pair it with a quick champagne cocktail that’s a fun take on a royale.

Continue Reading

Candied Cajun Nuts + My Holiday Party

Christmastime calls for a great party: a time to bring friends together and celebrate! Entertaining can be stressful and all too often, we over think and overwork ourselves getting ready, or at least I know I do. That’s why this year, I brought you along as I prepared for my Christmas party. I made a lot beforehand so the day of the party was as stress free as possible. To finish preparing, I had to make some candied nuts. Honestly, I don’t think it’s truly a party without some nuts placed strategically in bowls around the house for guests to munch on. No matter where someone may wander in the house, I want to make sure they have something to satisfy their hunger. These candied Cajun nuts satisfy both a sweet and savory tooth. A slightly spicy Cajun seasoning ends with a sweet finish.

Continue Reading