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.

DIY Tee Design With DecoArt Fabric Paints

DIY Tee Design - Offbeat & Inspired

In case you haven’t realized it by now, I’m a huge fan of upcycling. If it can be purchased, it can be made — and if it can be made, there’s a chance you already have the tools to do it at home. Of course this isn’t always the case, but in my experience I rarely have to buy more than 1 or 2 things to complete a project. Either DIY-ing really is that resourceful, or I’m a hoarder. Whichever way you look at it, making stuff from what you already have in the house is awesome. As a result of my (possible) hoarder-like tendencies, I have a collection of blank fitted tees that I knew would be perfect candidates for a little design upgrade.

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Homemade Eggnog

Homemade Eggnog

Growing up, my mom always made eggnog around Christmas time. As kids, I remember going into the fridge to grab a snack, and then getting really excited when I saw the gallon jugs of milk replaced with gallons of homemade eggnog (non-alcoholic, of course).

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Peppermint Mocha Soap

Peppermint Mocha Soap 1

When the cold weather hits, you can almost always find me with a hot beverage in hand – cider, tea, hot chocolate and nearly any type of coffee concoction. One of my favorite wintertime treats is the peppermint mocha. It’s the perfect drink to kick off the Christmas season – chocolatey, minty and needlessly caloric. What more could you ask for?

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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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Our Open “Haus” Menu

I recently shared a few creative and simple entertaining ideas inspired by my brother and sister-in-law at their open house for FreshGround Roasting. As that event was being planned I thought, “Why not make this a weekend event and host an open house at our place the next day?”

OK, I’ll admit it was quite busy cooking, cleaning and setting up for two consecutive open houses. But it was totally worth it! We had a great time on Saturday with FreshGround. Then on Sunday, my husband and I invited friends, family and neighbors to our open “Haus” (our play on words since our last name is Hauser).

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Knife Block Redo

I haven’t had much time lately to tackle the big DIY projects at my house. I have furniture, pallets, burlap, paint and all kinds of other goodies in our garage just waiting to become some wonderful DIY creation. I keep reminding my hubby that I DO have a plan for that pallet and those scraps of wood – and that huge old junky looking window I convinced him I needed.

I’ve finally accepted the fact that I just don’t have time for those big projects right now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still keeping all those amazing supplies. I just have to be more realistic with my DIY projects at the moment. So this week, instead of stressing about finishing of my big furniture projects, I decided to check some smaller, more realistic projects off the list.

After initially seeing this idea on Pinterest and a host of other blogs, I decided to redo my knife block. It’s one of those boring wood knife blocks that wasn’t really much to look at. I wanted that functional block to become a fun pop of color my kitchen desperately needed.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Soap

This past weekend, one of my best friends came to visit. She and I have known each other since those uncomfortable junior high days of braces, over-sized glasses and zero sense of style. Fortunately, we survived the preteen years and have come out the other side with an awesome friendship and (hopefully) a little less adolescent awkwardness.

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We spent this past weekend hanging out downtown, eating great food, reminiscing about old times and of course, crafting. I couldn’t wait to share my new love of soap-making. I’ll admit, after my last soaping mishap I was a bit nervous to create my own recipe. But when you’re crafting with friends, the mistakes are half as frustrating and the successes twice as fun, so why not give it another shot?

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Creative & Simple Entertaining Ideas

Last Saturday, Tiffany and I hung out with my brother and sister-in-law at their open house for FreshGround Roasting. We had a blast preparing appetizers, decorating and learning about coffee. One of the things that I loved was how my sister-in-law, Krista, set out the food. We had hearty appetizers, local cheeses, amazing cupcakes from The Sugar Path and fresh fruits and veggies. Krista used vintage and household items to make the spread look as good as it tasted.

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Homemade New Jersey Deli Bagels

There are a lot of things I miss about New Jersey.  I miss being familiar with a place because I grew up there.  I miss the weekly football gatherings at my dad’s house, having about 50 authentic Italian restaurants within a 5 mile radius, only being a few (traffic-filled) minutes away from Manhattan, the “accent” that I didn’t realize existed until I moved to Kentucky – and I miss the bagels.

Every deli in New Jersey sells bagels.  I’m not sure which are better, New York bagels or New Jersey bagels, but I have to say the texture and flavor of both are something I haven’t found anywhere else.  We have a Panera nearby and they definitely make a decent bagel – but the slightly dense, slightly sweet, slightly salty, steamy and rich bread encased in the chewy caramelized crust of a fresh New Jersey bagel just can’t be beat.

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