Living Better Together

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Blissful Bookworms Welcome!


The Blissful Bookworms www.livingbettertogether.com

I am so excited to share a fun new series here on Living Better Together! I've teamed up with four other lovely bloggers to start The Blissful Bookworms - A Virtual Book Club!

I hope you'll join us!

Stop by and meet your other hosts!

Maggie from The Love Nerds

Dana from This Silly Girl's Life
Stephanie from The Tip Toe Fairy
Cami from TitiCrafty

On the 23rd of each month we will post the next months book nominations for your votes as well as a giveaway of the next month's book, the voting and giveaway will end on the 28th of each month! On the first day of each month we will announce that month's book.

We have set up a Facebook group that Book Club participants may join so we can discuss the books! Click the image below to join the group!

The Blissful Bookworms www.livingbettertogether.com

May's Book Nominations

Scroll down to vote and enter to win a free copy of May's book!

The Blissful Bookworms www.livingbettertogether.com

The Blissful Bookworms www.livingbettertogether.com

The Blissful Bookworms www.livingbettertogether.com

The Blissful Bookworms www.livingbettertogether.com

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sea Salt Caramel Carrot Cake Poke Cake


Sea Salt Caramel Carrot Cake Poke Cake www.livingbettertogether.com

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter or at least a great day with their families! I know most associate Carrot Cake with Easter, but I think it's a great dessert that can be served all year round! This particular Carrot Cake is a Poke Cake which means it's had holes poked in it and then drenched in Sweetened Condensed Milk. Then its topped with frosting and in this case Sea Salt Caramel Sauce from Stonewall Kitchen and some chopped pecans.

Sea Salt Caramel Carrot Cake Poke Cake www.livingbettertogether.com

 I had never made or had a Poke Cake before this one and now I understand why they are so popular, they're incredibly moist and delicious and let's just try to forget about the fact that they're pretty much waistline suicide.

Sea Salt Caramel Carrot Cake Poke Cake www.livingbettertogether.com

If you've been reading the blog for a while, then you know I have a slight obsession with Stonewall Kitchen products. I was super excited to partner with them again for a Spring/Summer Series after the Fall/Winter Series was so successful! You might remember my Banoffee Pie and Wild Maine Blueberry Pancakes in a Jar which were pretty popular. 

Sea Salt Caramel Carrot Cake Poke Cake www.livingbettertogether.com

Makes a 9 x 13 Cake
Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 box Carrot Cake Mix
  • 1 package Instant Vanilla Pudding
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/2 cups Chopped Pecans (Optional)
  • 14 oz. can Sweetened Condensed Milk
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1/3 cup Instant Cheesecake Pudding
  • 1/2 cup Confectioners' Sugar
Topping:
Directions: 
  • Preheat 350 F.
  • Combine cake ingredients except for Sweetened Condensed Milk and mix until combined.
  • Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes.
  • Let cake cool completely. Do not remove cake from pan, it cannot stand on its own.
  • Once cake has cooled, use a skewer to evenly poke the cake about 25 - 40 times.
  • Pour sweetened condensed milk over the cake and let set over night.
  • Once cake has set, whip together frosting ingredients until light and fluffy, evenly spread frosting over the cake.
  • Heat opened Sea Salt Caramel Sauce jar in the microwave for 20 - 30 seconds.
  • Pour Sea Salt Caramel Sauce over the frosting and top it with chopped pecans.
Sea Salt Caramel Carrot Cake Poke Cake www.livingbettertogether.com

The Sea Salt Caramel Sauce was the perfect touch to this cake, the combination of sweet and salty was so delicious. I loved the way everything came together and the slight crunch of the pecans was great for the texture of the cake. Everyone loved this cake and I think almost everyone had seconds!

Sea Salt Caramel Carrot Cake Poke Cake www.livingbettertogether.com

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Eat. Create. Party! No. 19



Welcome to the Eat. Create. Party! link party! A link party where you can share all of your latest creations and lifestyle posts. Your amazing content will be shared on FOUR blogs!

I also have a fun giveaway for you all this week!

You can check out my book review for The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender here.

Don’t forget to grab the party button and put it on your page somewhere to spread the word!

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Features!

Most Viewed:


Key Lime Pie from This Silly Girl's Life

My Favorite:


DIY Upholstered Bench from My Love 2 Create

Visit I Want Crazy, Endlessly Inspired, and A Dash of Sanity to check out their favorites from last week! 

Don't forget to grab your feature button!

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All Features and other favorites will be pinned to our Eat. Create. Party! board on Pinterest!

Rules:

1. Please follow your hosts in some way! Let us know you did and we'll return the love!

Living Better TogetherPinterest - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - Google+
I Want CrazyPinterest - Facebook - Twitter - Google+ - Instagram
Endlessly InspiredPinterest - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - Bloglovin'
A Dash of SanityPinterest - Facebook - Google+ - Twitter

2. If you'd like, grab the party button and tell your friends!

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3. No giveaways, Etsy shops, or link parties please.

4. Please link to a specific post, not your homepage.

5. Get inspired! Visit other links! Spread the word! It is a party after all!

Please be aware that by sharing your posts at Eat. Create. Party! you are giving permission to our hosts to feature your projects on social media, on their blogs as featured posts and in round-up posts with links back to your site and all credit given to you. By providing your email, you are subscribing to updates about this link up. You may opt out at any time.

We can't wait to see what you link up with us this week! But first, join us for an Instagram Hop!

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender - Book Review


Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender | www.livingbettertogether.com

It's been a long time since I have read a book like The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton. A book that was written in a way that's like freshly brushed paint on a blank canvas. 

Smooth. Vibrant. Beautiful.

Walton walks you through the generations of the Lavender family while straddling the line between reality and the supernatural. The story, told by Ava Lavender, is a hauntingly beautiful tale about life, love, loss and the weight they hold over us.

From the first chapter I was glued; it was both captivating and cultural, magical and historical, romantic and depressing. This story demanded emotion from it's reader, your heart loves and breaks with the characters. The words danced off the pages and the characters crept their way into my heart. 

Whether you're a young adult or an old soul, you will love this book!

Because I loved this book so much, I want to give one of my lovely readers a Kindle version of the book!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Island Daiquiri Cupcakes


Island Daiquiri Cupcakes www.livingbettertogether.com

So I may have outdone myself with these cupcakes. They're a bit over the top and nontraditional, but they are oh so good! I wanted something that was going to take me away somewhere warm, a cupcake for the beach, even though they don't necessarily go hand in hand. Coconut and rum cupcakes filled with a silky key lime curd and topped with a creamy mango frosting seemed like a fabulous combination of flavors. So the Island Daiquiri Cupcake was born! 

Island Daiquiri Cupcakes www.livingbettertogether.com

More than anything else these cupcakes are fun and inventive. You might get a few weird looks when you explain to people what they are, but you're going to get a lot of smiles once they take a bite. If you're not a big fan of chocolate or super sweet treats, this cupcake is perfect for you. It's mild flavors and light alcoholic punch are just the thing for summer celebrations; whether at the beach, by the pool or up in the northern lakes of Maine.

I sent these cupcakes with my mother to work and the reports were that I was converting people who never liked cupcakes ever into cupcake lovers. 

They were also referred to as orgasmic.

I'll take that as a cupcake win!

Island Daiquiri Cupcakes www.livingbettertogether.com

Makes 24 Cupcakes
Cake Ingredients:
  • 1 Box Duncan Hines White Cake Mix
  • 3.9 oz. Package Jell-O Coconut Cream Instant Pudding
  • 4 Egg Whites
  • 1 cup Sour Cream
  • 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 cup Milk or Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 cup Rum
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Extract
Key Lime Curd Ingredients:
Recipe adapted from Alaska From Scratch
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 1/4 cup Key Lime Juice approx. 4-5 Key Limes
  • 1 tbsp Key Lime Zest
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
Frosting Ingredients:
  • 2 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1/3 cup Instant Vanilla Pudding Powder
  • 1 - 1.7 oz. Package of Freeze Dried Mangoes (I get mine at Trader Joe's but you can also buy them on Amazon)
  • 1/2 cup Confectioners' Sugar
Cupcake Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 F.
  • Line cupcake pan.
  • Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer and beat until combined.
  • Fill cupcake liners 1/2 - 3/4 full.
  • Reduce heat to 325 F.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes until toothpick comes clean.
  • Remove from oven and transfer cupcakes to cooling racks to finish cooling.
  • Once cupcakes have cooled, core them for the key lime curd.
Key Lime Curd Directions:

  • In a small pot, wisk together eggs and sugar until well blended.
  • Wisk in key lime juice and zest.
  • Turn heat on medium-low and stir fast and constantly until mixture is warmed through.
  • Add butter a tablespoon at a time until melted and curd becomes smooth.
  • Continue stirring constantly until curd thickens and looks almost creamy.
  • Curd is done once it coats the back of a spoon.
  • Strain curd through a cheese cloth or fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl to remove zest piece and any clumps. 
  • Tightly seal bowl with cover or cling wrap and place in the fridge until completely cooled.
  • Once cooled, spoon about a tbsp or a little less into the holes you cored out in the cupcakes. 
Frosting Directions:
  • Add freeze dried mangoes to a food processor and blend until you have a fine dust.
  • Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer or large bowl and whip until frosting is light and fluffy. 
  • Use a bag or decorator tool to pipe frosting on cooled cupcakes making sure to cover the key lime filling entirely.
  • Serve immediately for best taste.
Island Daiquiri Cupcakes www.livingbettertogether.com

Enjoy!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bite Sized Cookie Butter Cream Pies


Bite Sized Cookie Butter Cream Pies www.livingbettertogether.com

The thing about cookie butter is that it's addictive. As soon as you try it you begin imagining all of the amazing ways you can use it. One of those ways for me was cream pie, it just seemed like a natural use for the creamy and delicious spread. 

Bite Sized Cookie Butter Cream Pies www.livingbettertogether.com


Cookie Butter can be a bit rich for some, so I decided to make bite sized cream pies. They were the perfect on the go treat for Matt's guys trip to Massachusetts last weekend... you know, cause there's nothing like cream pie for breakfast. These mini Belgian Chocolate Cups were an easy and delicious crust for the pie. 

Bite Sized Cookie Butter Cream Pies www.livingbettertogether.com

I love how the Belgian Chocolate cups hugged the creamy cookie butter pie and how the vanilla cream lightened it up so it wasn't too rich! I really liked the fact that you don't have to wait for the filling to set. They're soft in the beginning but not liquid like a lot of cream pies start out. You can easily pop them in the freezer for 20 minutes if you want to firm them up a bit, or in the fridge if you're not in a real hurry. If you're looking for an impressive dessert that you can whip up in 15 minutes, this is it!

Bite Sized Cookie Butter Cream Pies www.livingbettertogether.com


Makes 24 Bites
Ingredients: 
  • 18 Belgian Chocolate Cups
  • Chocolate Sprinkles
Filling:
  • 1/2 cup Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 cup Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Cookie Butter
  • 1/2 cup Confectioners' Sugar
Cream:
  • 1 cup Whipping Cream
  • 3 tbsp Instant Vanilla Pudding Powder
  • 1/4 cup Confectioners' Sugar
Directions:
  • Combine filling ingredients in a medium bowl or stand mixer and beat until well blended.
  • Pipe filling into Belgian Chocolate Cups - You can find these cups at Walmart.
  • In a separate medium bowl or cleaned stand mixer, combine cream ingredients and whip until light and fluffy.
  • Top pie filling with little dollops of cream and chocolate sprinkles.
  • Serve immediately or store in fridge for up to 48 hours.
Bite Sized Cookie Butter Cream Pies www.livingbettertogether.com