All of the packages are opened and put away, and it's now time to take a little stock in all of what the holidays had to offer. To sum it up in three words: great family time!
Our holidays started early. On the 19th, to be exact, when we had some friends over for dinner and a little Santa. Our big gift to our families was a little different this year. We are all blessed in abundance and no one really needs anything. So rather than buying a bunch of gifts, we adopted a needy family and bought everything on their wish lists instead. And what makes this even neater is that we all know the family. To say that this family had a really tough 2010 would be an understatement. And to say that this act of kindness really made their 2010 would likewise be an understatement. I think these photos from our evening with them speak volumes.
We enjoyed Christmas Day with Derek's parents. We started with brunch and ended with a delicious steak dinner. It had been a while since we had been to visit them. Terrible to say but life really does get in the way of quality family time sometimes. And that's certainly true of most of 2010. So it was nice to set aside an entire day to enjoy a leisurely visit. They set us up with loads of Frog gear, so we're definitely all set for game day. But I think we had the most fun with the hilariously fun remote control cars. LOL
My family came over on Sunday afternoon. We don't get much time to really sit and visit either, so it was nice to have the afternoon to do some catching up. My nephew provided great entertainment for us all. And he was particularly helpful with opening packages. What....you didn't want that package open, Aunt Susan?? LOL!
And now we count down the days until the new year and the Rose Bowl. Both are just around the corner. Where does all the time go?!
NOTE: I began drafting this before New Year's but was unable to get it finished before we left on our trip. Just in case those of you reading in Google Reader are a little confused.
For the last month or so, there hasn't been much cooking going on at my house. You know what that means?! Yep, we've been eating out. This issue of Things is focusing on all of the wonderful mainstream gluten-free dining options out there and most specifically the restaurants that I've patronized.
Things on the Gluten-Free Menu
Maggiano's has made a number of revisions to their menu to accomodate everyone requiring gluten-free options. EVERY sauce on their menu is gluten-free as Maggiano's has chosen to substitute rice flour for the traditional flours they were using. At this time, you have two choices for pasta: rigatoni or fettuccini. When I was there most recently, I had the chicken scallopini over rigatoni, and it did not disappoint. I was a little disappointed, however, that they don't offer gluten-free ravioli or gnocchi. But you know, I decided that those options will come in time as more of us begin venturing out to eat at mainstream restaurants. I'm exceedingly grateful to Maggiano's for adapting their entire menu to accomodate those with gluten sensitivities!
PF Chang's has an entire section of their menu devoted to gluten-free selections and it's quite extensive. I actually got to sample several of these items at the gluten-free expo that I attended in Grapevine back in September. Until recently, I hadn't had the time to actually GO to PF Chang's and try the dining experience. I must say, it did NOT disappoint. I had the spicy chicken and it was very good. It's light and especially good with the extra-spicy condiments that PF Chang's is so famous for. The waitress was also very knowledgable and kept all of the gluten-free food and condiments (yes, they have gluten-free soy sauce!) separate. Unfortunately, I was too full to have dessert, but I know that it's absolutely divine b/c I had a NUMBER of samples at the expo. *grin* So definitely be sure you save room for that heavenly chocolate mousse, even if you're not gluten free!
Cosa Nostra is my absolute favorite local Italian joint that I have spoken about many times here on the ol' blog. It's a family-run business, and I just happen to know the family. Great people! And even better food!! After finding out that I have gluten sensitivities, I had not been to eat there even though Denisio promised that he could accomodate me. We finally got around to going this week, and Denisio got onto me for not coming in sooner. Apparently, there are a number of faithful patrons who are gluten free and he had already made some adjustments to menu items. My favorite menu items are actually naturally gluten free; they just needed a pasta substitution. The only hitch is that you must provide your own pasta (which they, of course, cook separately to avoid cross-contamination). But you know, that's a small price to pay for TO DIE FOR authentic Italian food! Thanks, Denisio - you rock!!
Pei Wei also has adapted several of its menu items to make them gluten-free, though it's not nearly as extensive as PF Chang's. I took some time off work this week so I could get my Christmas shopping done in the middle of the day and avoid some of the crowds and decided to give lunch at Pei Wei a whirl after picking up their gluten-free menu at the Grapevine expo. I had the spicy chicken and it was just as light as the dish at PF Chang's. Pei Wei also provides patrons with gluten-free soy sauce. And if you happen to have any food left to take home, they send you home with gluten-free soy sauce packets! (Gotta love San-J for coming up with that idea! Brilliant!) So if you're looking for good Asian food on-the-run, then Pei Wei certainly fits the bill.
Jason's Deli launched its gluten-free menu offerings over the summer. I have not tried it myself, but my mom has and was very pleased. They use Udi's gluten-free bread to build your sandwich. (And for those of you who don't know, it really is the best bread on the widespread market if you're looking for something that is close to the "real" thing.) The staff is all supposed to be trained about cross-contamination, and thus far, my mom hasn't had any issues. One day soon, I'll get in there to get me a sammich b/c I LOVE their sweet tea!
TGI Friday's recently announced that they have revamped their menu to include allergen alerts next to all of their menu items so that common allergens are identified, including wheat, soy, eggs, shellfish, peanuts, to name a few. (Read the press release here) I'll have to pop in there soon and check out the new menu.
The Screen Door located in the One Arts Plaza is able to accomodate people with food allergies. I dined there recently with a friend before we went to the opera. When I placed our reservation on Open Table, I made a notation about requiring gluten-free. As soon as we checked in with the hostess, she asked about the person needing gluten-free and told me that she had alerted the waiter. It was definitely smooth sailing and the food was delicious. I had steak with bernaise sauce and mashed potatoes and steamed veggies. Yummo! Two thumbs up all around!
Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse in Oklahoma City also has an extensive gluten-free menu. We visited friends over Thanksgiving and went to dinner at Mickey Mantle's on Friday night. It's very reminiscent of one of our favorite steakhouses here in Dallas - Morton's of Chicago (who has also told us that they can easily accomodate gluten-free diners). I was surprised when I mentioned to the waitress that I was gluten-free that she took my menu and brought me a new one that not only told me what I could have but also told me the things I could not. Sometimes it's helpful to know that things on the menu that SEEM harmless by description really aren't! The steak was cooked to perfection, as was everything else. If you ever find yourself in OKC, you should definitely eat at Mickey Mantle's.
There are many more restaurants joining in the gluten-free movement. And those of us who require these special menu items should do our part by patronizing the restaurants who test out these menus. If we don't, we are likely to lose the number of mainstream restaurant choices we now have, putting us back another 5-10 years. And who wants that?!
The blog's been silent for a while. At least with posts of any substance. So how about a new Things post? This time of the year - the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas - makes me far more aware of my many blessings.
Things I'm Thankful For
I'm thankful to be in a position not to need anything but instead to be in a place where I can meet other people's needs.
I'm thankful for good health. This is so easy to take for granted. I was listening to the radio yesterday, and they were fundraising for Children's Hospital. And it made me think about the number of people who will be spending their holidays in the hospital fighting various illnesses. How wonderful it is to be well!
I'm thankful for wonderful friends. Derek and I are blessed to have really terrific people in our lives. People who listen to us when we whine, who celebrate when we accomplish something, who get mad on our behalves, who give us encouragement when we're down. Where would we be without good friends?!
I'm thankful that we both have jobs that are not as susceptible to fluctuations in the economy.
I'm thankful for family. They love you warts & all. And while we can't pick and choose our family, they can't pick & choose either. And so you learn very early the importance of compromise, forgiveness, understanding, and unconditional love. What invaluable gifts & lessons!
I'm thankful for music. As much as I may complain this time of year about how busy things are and how much singing I do, it really IS my favorite time of year to sing. I love Christmas/Advent music! Something about the music just gives me goosebumps. What a joy it is to get to share that with others! (If you're not busy on Sunday, please come to A Texas Christmas. It's going to be fabulous! And yes, I'm feeling better. Thanksforasking.)
I'm thankful for a successful start to my new joint business venture and I'm looking forward to getting back in the sweatcraftroom to create the new line of product launching in January.
You are cordially invited to join the Lake Highlands United Methodist Church Ministry of Music as we celebrate the joy of the season in an evening concert featuring all church choirs, handbells, orchestra, percussion, organ, and piano this Sunday, December 12th at 6:30 p.m. in the sanctuary. Those in attendance will have a special treat as we premiere a memorial commissioned work composed by Rob Landes for soprano, flute, and piano. "Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?" is a delightful setting of the traditional poem of the same name by Robert Blake. (And I also happen to be fortunate enough to get to sing it! (assuming I ward off this cold!))