Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sugar Cookies

Okay, so it's not exactly winter break and these photos are from 2006, but I've been eager to make a baking post. I scoured my hard drive for pictures of food I made that weren't a complete disaster and this is all I got. Just a heads up: my decorating skills weren't any good a year ago, nor are they any better today.

It's become a tradition for my mom and I to bake sugar cookies during winter break over the past few years. We've used a recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens binder we bought at Costco.

We're always excited when we start, but that feeling quickly wanes after the first couple batches when we're faced with a giant ball of dough that requires more iterations of cutting and decorating. You think we would have learned to halve the recipe by now.

Yeah, yeah, it was a motley assortment of cookies, but I was too lazy to find the winter-themed cookie cutters and resorted to mixing the snowmen with tulips and rabbits.

Making green and orange icing seemed like a good idea at the time, but it probably wasn't the most appetizing color combination.

Despite their hideous appearance pictured above, they do go quickly when we have guests over. They are light and sweet, and not on the chewy side. My parents prefer them on the crispy side (not ideal for decorating) so I usually leave them in there for a couple minutes longer than the recipe calls for. I don't recommend these if you want an obnoxiously heavy cookie, such as a jumbo chocolate chip, as they are a simple, reliable standby.

I think this is the recipe (at least it seems close enough), I don't have the book at school with me but this is what resulted from my expert Google skills:

Sugar Cookies, from Better Homes and Gardens
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill dough in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours or until easy to handle.

2. Preheat oven to 375F. Roll each half of the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Cut dough with a floured 3-1/2-inch cookie cutter in your preferred shape. Place cutouts 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

3. Bake in preheated oven about 8 minutes or until edges are set. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. If desired, spread with icing made from powdered sugar. Let stand until slightly set; pipe icing in decorative designs over iced cookies. Let stand until icing is set. Makes 36 cookies.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bluegrass Grill & Bakery

After four years at UVA, I thought I had exhausted all the breakfast/brunch options of Charlottesville. Wafflehouse and Italian Villa are flat out disgusting while the greasiness of the Tavern is probably only good after a night of heavy drinking. We took a trip all the way to Staunton to check out Mrs. Rowe's--despite the excellent service we were all disappointed by the mediocre food (review coming soon). Sadly, it looked like IHOP had surpassed all the rest, especially with half-off night on Thursdays for college students.

But word of a hidden local treasure, the Bluegrass Grill & Bakery, revitalized my search for brunch and I knew it was time for a visit.

We set out before class on a quiet Thursday morning and the place was not too busy. Located next to the X-Lounge downtown, you'd never guess this humble establishment could serve up such deliciousness.

I had the spanankopita omelet that had spinach, feta, and mozzarella cheese accompanied by a fresh honey wheat biscuit and home fries.

Nothing fancy or out of the ordinary, but the home fries were the best ones I've had in Charlottesville. My omelet was quite tasty but I liked my friend's mushroom omelet more. My fellow diners had praise for the pancakes.

It was a little pricey ($7.95) and a heavy way to start the day, but it was overall a pleasant experience and is now the front-runner on my list of local breakfast/brunch places. It is definitely not the cleanest place, but that seems to be a trend I've noticed in most of the restaurants in Charlottesville.

I'd be willing to return maybe one more time before graduation, but I am quite partial to homemade breakfast.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Riverside Lunch

The name is rather deceptive as we ate at this hole-in-the wall at 9PM and did not see a river nearby. Regardless, if you're in the mood for something greasy and are willing to loosen your standards for proper food handling, Riverside Lunch is the place to go. They claim they serve the "Best Burger" in Charlottesville, and I'd say they beat out Five Guys.

Service was attentive and friendly, but they do allow customers to smoke which can become an issue when the place gets crowded.
Despite the large portions, the fries were bland and tasteless.

I ordered a cheeseburger with tomato, lettuce, grilled onions, and grilled mushrooms. I may have been super hungry, but this burger was delicious and dripping with grease. It was also pretty cheap for a local restaurant at $3 for my burger.

This restaurant falls into the category of "one-timers", places that were delicious at the time but were too greasy to return. As a temporary resident of Charlottesville, this is the sort of place that I'd like to go once just to try and say that I've eaten there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I'd only written about two posts in the past year with nothing interesting so I've decided to change this to a food blog!

Here's a picture of the frozen yogurt I had at a new shop called Iceberry. You'd think they would come up with a name a little further from Pinkberry, but frozen yogurt is frozen yogurt. I ordered one with strawberries, mangos, and pineapple while my sister had the one with oreo bits.

The yogurt was refreshing and sweet. Service was friendly but they did have the misfortune of opening in the middle of winter. If they can hold out until the weather starts warming up, this place will do really well with its prime location in Reston Town Center. My only complaint is that they were a bit stingy with the toppings that I paid extra for. I think my cup was about $4 - $5.