Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies-6

Ever cook something for the first time and then wonder, “Why in the world haven’t I been making this all along!?” That’s how I feel about shortbread. For some reason, I’ve never made shortbread cookies until this year – but now, I’m completely hooked. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve quickly baked (and eaten) enough of these buttery, sweet, crumbly cookies to make up for all the years they’ve been missing from my kitchen.

For this recipe, there are five basic ingredients. That’s it – just five! And you most likely already have them in your pantry: butter, sugar, vanilla, flour and salt. I added orange zest and dried cranberries, but you can experiment with what you have readily available. Whip up a batch with chocolate chips, add your favorite spices (cardamom and clove are my current faves) or throw in different kinds of nuts. You can even get creative and try different cookie and beverage pairings – like a bold coffee with dark chocolate shortbread or rooibos tea alongside my cranberry version below.

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies

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Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies-3

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies-2

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies-7

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies-5

Cranberry-Orange Shortbread Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
Adapted from Ina Garten

3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
½ to ¾ cup dried cranberries
Additional sugar for sprinkling

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Mix in the vanilla along with two teaspoons of water.

2. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, salt, ground ginger and orange zest. With the mixer on low, slowly pour the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until ingredients are fully incorporated. Pour in the dried cranberries and stir with a spatula until evenly distributed.

3. Place the dough on a floured surface and form into a log shape. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap the dough and slice it into about ½ inch slices. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle on a little bit of coarse sugar (such as turbinado). Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies turn golden brown.

5. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on a wire rack. Serve and enjoy!

A Jackson Hole Journey + Adventure-Style Cocoa

A Jackson Hole Journey + Adventure-Style Cocoa - offbeat + inspired

One of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring adventures I’ve ever been on happened about 2 months ago in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Before I get into all the details, watch this highlight video! (I am SO excited to share this with you guys…)

How it all came together is kind of surreal, so I’ll try to keep that part brief without leaving anything out. The Jeep brand had been on the hunt for a few social media influencers to bring out to Jackson Hole to experience the mountains and the community, all from behind the wheel of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel. Of course they wanted us to get to know the vehicle itself, but the whole thing was supposed to be more about an adventure. One that created memories and stories — the kind we would take with us and share over and over again. So when they initially reached out to me and asked what things I would anticipate doing in a setting like the Grand Tetons, this was me.

In that moment, I dreamed up my ideal visit to Jackson Hole.

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H&M + Fearlessly Curating Your Own Style

H&M + Fearlessly Curating Your Own Style - offbeat + inspired

My love for H&M has everything to do with this key combo: quality x options x price.

It can be overwhelming walking into a store with dozens of sections devoted to every possible mood. It’s like being asked to choose a personality for yourself on the spot with a debit card screaming at you from your purse — which is kind of genius on their part because my inner monologue always goes something like this: “Am I preppy/outdoorsy? Yes…but I also have yet to find the perfect LBD, which means I should go to the ‘party’ section. Vintage is always fun, buuut that classic European vibe over there is something I’ve always wanted to try out.” And after a few rounds of that, the inevitable, “WHO AM I?” and then, victoriously, “WHOEVER I WANT TO BE! PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT…SELF!” This whole thing happens while I’m still standing at the entrance, mind you. Fast forward 2 hours, and I’ve burrowed through all the sections, raided the dressing room and emerged with an armload of personalities to test drive in the real world.

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Homemade Butterbeer + A Trip to the Wizarding World

Homemade Butterbeer + A Trip to the Wizarding World - offbeat + inspired

Confession! I was SUPER late to the Harry Potter party. When the movies first came out, I was actually kind of annoyed by all the hype. I refused to see them in theaters and avoided family movie nights once they were out on DVD. I couldn’t even put my finger on why I was so against HP because I had no idea what the story was even about. But after all the buzz died down, I watched the first one…and was hooked.

All of my siblings love Harry Potter, so watching with them was a lot of fun. There’s so much to love about the story, the characters, the entire world they created. Before I digress into all the spiritual and philosophical parallels that really get me going, I’ll skip to the part where I got to visit Universal Orlando’s “Wizarding World of Harry Potter“, and experienced the BUTTERBEER. Cue heavens opening, angels singing…

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Coffee + Maple Spiced Nuts

Coffee + Maple Spiced Nuts - offbeat + inspired-2

In our house, we always have a dish of mixed nuts set out. I guess I figure that if I have that out as a snack, I’ll be less likely to head towards the pantry for a handful of chocolate chips. (Although, truth be told, it doesn’t always work.)

In anticipation of the holidays, I opted to spice (and sweeten) things up a bit. These mixed nuts are sweetened with maple syrup and tossed with a few of my favorite fall spices. Of course, I add coffee to pretty much anything I can, so there’s also a hint of freshly ground coffee that takes the flavor to the next level.

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Life + Waffles

Pumpkin Spice Belgian Waffles + Toasted Pecans - offbeat + inspired

Life happens in phases. They can be marked by jobs, boyfriends, schools, hair colors, diets — anything and everything. I was recently reflecting on my own phases, and noticed that no matter how chaotic or calm, easy or hard, routine or ridiculous a time in my life was, there was always a constant. I could chronologically organize my phases according to what I was baking.

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Cider, Thyme + Tonic Mocktail

Cider, Thyme + Tonic Mocktail - offbeat + inspired-2

It’s been a while since I’ve shared anything on the blog, but I have to say it’s good to be back! Life has been a little crazy lately…and it’s about to get a whole lot crazier!

My husband and I are soooo excited to announce that we’re expecting twins in March! To add to our excitement, we just found out the genders (I’m very impatient and too much of a planner to not know). We’re having a little boy and a little girl! During the ultrasound, we could see Baby Boy already attempting to punch his sister. Apparently, sibling rivalry starts way earlier than I realized.

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Autumn Squash Strata With Elizabeth Cauvel

Autumn Squash Strata With Elizabeth Cauvel - offbeat + inspired

As promised, the delectable Autumn Squash Strata recipe as seen at the orchard brunch with Poppy Barley! This one was created by my lovely friend, Elizabeth Cauvel, at my apartment the day before the event. It was kind of funny, two tall girls, tons of food and a honkin’ DSLR crammed into my tiny kitchen — but she cooked, I photographed, and we loved it. Here’s a photo journal of the process. Recipe at the end!

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An Orchard Brunch with Poppy Barley

An Orchard Brunch with Poppy Barley - offbeat + inspired

I met the Poppy Barley team on a trip to Edmonton about 6 months ago. Edmonton is a sweet little city in Alberta, and I was there to experience the culture and creative community for a weekend (see the highlight video here!). When I toured the Poppy Barley studio, I fell in love instantly. PB makes extremely high quality, custom-fitted leather footwear. I went for a fitting while I was in town, and about 6 weeks later I received my beautiful boots in the mail. I’ve never worn a more comfortable pair. It was unbelievable. I wrote them an e-mail to rave a bit, and that’s when the idea of hosting a Poppy Barley gathering here in Lexington was born. I wanted to share about this wonderful company with a small group of girls, and suddenly the vision of a rustic barn wood table covered in pastries and breakfast treats, surrounded by vibrant apple trees came into focus.

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Clean Apple Cinnamon “Pop Tarts” (Grain/Gluten/Dairy/Sugar-Free)

Clean Apple Cinnamon "Pop Tarts" (Grain/Gluten/Dairy/Sugar-Free) - offbeat + inspired

Phew! These have been such a long time coming. When the pop tart train rolled into blog land, I couldn’t help hopping aboard. Who didn’t, at some point in life, LOVE pop tarts? I was a huge fan of the funky flavors like s’mores, chocolate frosted (with those majestic white sprinkle crumbles), apple cinnamon, brown sugar and so on. Toasted or not, with milk or on their own — there was just something about that crumbly crust and thin layer of filling that I couldn’t get over.

Keep reading!