Christmas & Creme Brulee

Creme Brulee 17

I can’t believe Christmas is over! It certainly snuck up on us this year. I say that every year, but it really snuck up on us this year. Confession: we didn’t even put ornaments on our tree! (Ducking and hiding.) We went to the tree farm about a week before Christmas, cut down our very first live tree since we got married, ooh’d and aah’d over how perfect and majestic it looked towering in our living room, draped it with some white twinkle lights — END SCENE. We even had a pile of ornaments sitting on the table waiting to be tucked into those glorious branches and it never happened. We’re the worst tree parents EVER.

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Aside from the overwhelming magnitude of our tree neglect, we did manage to work in some favorite holiday activities (and a few new ones) before the big day arrived. We did our traditional homemade cocoa and spent a few evenings by a roaring fire while catching up on the latest ABC Family Christmas Movies (Christmas In Handcuffs anyone?). I did lots of baking and cooking, desperately seeking a balance between health and holiday treats. The balance was never found but I learned that if you eat your weight in chocolate, you actually do end up killing the craving — success, sort of? We attended our first Gingerbread House Party and it was OH so much fun. Our friends, Hannah and Ben had us over to dress up our cat (S’mores) and their dog (Moses) in Santa and Reindeer gear for a “family photo.” I observed while Hannah created the most delicious and difficult pulled cream candy known to man. Hopefully I’ll convince her to do a tutorial for Offbeat & Inspired so you guys can see how wonderful these candies are! She also made bourbon-soaked cherries wrapped in fondant and dipped in chocolate. I could have eaten those for days. Cheers to having a pro candy maker in our midst!

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

After the preliminary festivities, we packed up our cat and 4 days’ worth of clothing (or in my case, 3 weeks worth) for an 8-hour road trip north, destined for a little New York town called Albion where we would spend Christmas with Dave’s family.

Creme Brulee 3

Dave’s mom is a cook and a baker. A really good cook and baker. Every time we visit she has new recipes to share and new cookbooks for me to drool over. It’s so inspiring to hear about all the treats she whips up for family, neighbors and friends. Before we drove up this year, she and I e-mailed back and forth about what recipes we could try out together during our visit. This has become somewhat of a tradition — one that I really love! For this trip, she suggested creme brûlée. She used to be the head pastry chef at a cafe/quilt shop and creme brûlée was one of the most popular items on the menu. At first I was intimidated by the fancy nature of this dessert, but I’m all for learning! I would take notes with my camera and she would work her creme brûlée magic.

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

These turned out better than anything I’ve ever had in a restaurant. The thin shell of hard caramel was sweet and toasty with a perfectly smooth and creamy vanilla custard underneath.

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

As I’m getting older and still sort of easing into “official adulthood”, I find myself being more purposeful about taking note of the really special events and moments in life. Spending Christmas day with my husband’s family while Mom-in-law teaches me how to make creme brûlée from scratch on the counter tops of her cozy well-worn kitchen with flurries of snow falling outside is truly one of them.

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Christmas & Creme Brulee - Offbeat & Inspired

Time with friends and family is such a treasure during the holidays. What memories did you make this Christmas? What traditions did you continue?

Creme Brûlée
Makes 6-8 (4-6 oz.) ramekins

2 cups of heavy cream
3 large eggs
1/2 cup of sugar (plus more for sprinkling)
3/4 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Bring 2 cups of heavy cream almost to a simmer over medium heat.

In a large bowl, stir eggs and sugar together until well blended.

Very slowly, add the hot cream to the egg mixture while whisking thoroughly until well blended.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve back into the pot used to heat the cream. Rinse out your large bowl and strain your mixture a second time back into the bowl.

Stir in the vanilla.

Divide the custard evenly between the ramekins and place them in a large baking pan. Fill the pan halfway with water.

Place the baking pan in the oven and bake until the custard has set, from 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The centers should jiggle slightly when the ramekins are gently shaken.

Remove ramekins from the baking pan immediately and transfer them to a cooling rack.  Cool to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Right before serving, generously sprinkle the tops with sugar and caramelize with a torch.

Chocolate Mint Cookies

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Growing up, my mom always made chocolate mint cookies for Christmas. I remember helping to put the little Andes mints on the top when the cookies came out of the oven, and I’d often attempt to sneak a few into my mouth for good measure. Of course, when there weren’t enough mints for the last tray of cookies it was glaringly obvious who was guilty of stealing them, but a bit of mischief was part of the fun of baking with Mom.

Keep reading!

DIY Cereal Box Gift Tags

DIY Cereal Box Gift Tags

With Christmas right around the corner, there are a million things to do in the way of decorating, list making, gift buying and travel planning. It can be overwhelming, especially if you’ve resolved to have a handmade holiday.  Because DIY projects can be a bit of an investment and a little more work, I like to focus on ones that will serve me year round (while staying season-appropriate).  It’s easy to get lost in the idea of “doing it yourself” in order to save money and vent some of that creative energy, but the “saving money” part can get tossed out the window fast if a lot of your projects are only useful once or twice a year.  On that note, I’d like to introduce Cereal Box Gift Tags!

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Easy DIY Wrapped Ball Ornament

I’m not one for flashy Christmas decor. It’s a little ironic because when the giant inflatable snow globes and Santas start to pop up all over the neighborhood, I love it!   As Christmas nears, I love driving around with Dave while listening to Christmas music and trying to find the houses with the most outrageous lights and props displays.  All of this ends the minute I enter my own house.  The craziest Christmas decorating I do is probably putting up a tree with colored twinkle lights.  Out of control, right?  Well that’s why I’ve decided to put a little more effort into my decorating this year.  I wanted decorations that were totally Christmas-worthy but could also be used year-round.

These ball ornaments are incredibly cheap and easy to make.  All you need are some styrofoam balls, an old catalog (or newspaper, or fabric), a hot glue gun and some string.  In the tutorial below, I’ll walk you through how I made one out of the pages of a catalog!

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REALLY exciting news! Offbeat & Inspired joins FOLK!!

REALLY exciting news!  Offbeat & Inspired joins FOLK!!

Well I’ve been a little busy this past week with something pretty major!! I’m SOOO excited to announce that Sarah and I have been working with Ben Ashby (editor in chief of FOLK Magazine) and some amazing bloggers over at the magazine’s new blog, FolkLifestyle.com!  A few weeks ago I was talking to Ben after he heard about our blog and I ended up writing a last minute article for FOLK’s Christmas issue which hits stores (and mailboxes) this week!  After that amazing event (pinch me, cause I wonder if it actually happened), we were introduced to some absolutely wonderful bloggers who were also asked to contribute to FOLK’s new blog, and we felt right at home joining the team!

We will be posting a few times a month over at the FOLK blog, and we HIGHLY recommend checking it out and subscribing.  The magazine and the blog are both phenomenal, and right up the alley of everything we love here at Offbeat & Inspired.  We’ll be contributing articles to the magazine too, and if you haven’t heard of FOLK yet, here’s a little note from Ben:

You may be asking what exactly FOLK is all about. Simply put it is about ALL AMERICAN LIVING. The driving force behind FOLK is to immerse the reader in a life that journeys at a slower pace, one that involves drinking iced tea on the front porch, having conversations with friends, reliving the olden days, hunting for the perfect antique and vintage items, eating at local diners, perfecting family recipes, picking tomatoes off the vine, summers spent in a swing under an old oak tree, buying locally made products, driving with windows down and Miranda Lambert blasting, creating unique collections of your own, finding the country life in any setting, and one that remembers the little things that make life worth living.

There you have it!  FOLK will be choc full of everything you need to get inspired and stay inspired.  Sign us up!!  If you’re half as psyched about this as we are, head over to the blog’s kick-off post and leave a comment to be automatically entered to win an autographed copy of the magazine!

Keep reading for an amazing discount on an entire year’s subscription to FOLK Magazine!

DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice

Am I the only one who stands in the middle of the grocery aisle Googling for DIY and/or substitution recipes once I find out whatever I need is out of stock? Hopefully not, because it’s proven to be super helpful 99% of the time – like today. I ran to the store for pumpkin pie spice and it was the only empty slot in the entire spices section. Lovely. So I Googled “DIY pumpkin pie spice” and one of the first results was a great little recipe from Annie’s Eats. The best part… I already had all the ingredients at home!

If you find yourself in need of pumpkin pie spice this season, check your pantry for these common spices before shelling out a few bucks for something you can mix yourself!

DIY Pumpkin Pie Spice
From Annie’s Eats

2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1½ tsp. ground allspice
1½ tsp. ground cloves
¾ tsp. ground nutmeg

Mix them all together and store in an airtight container!

Do you have a favorite money-saving DIY pantry tip?