When I lived and studied abroad in London a decade ago, I used to consume an entire Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza (a legit medium size, not ‘personal pan pizza’ size, mind you) in one sitting. It was my ultimate hangover cure and the perfect cheap, greasy fuel to get me through a day sitting on the couch and writing my final papers. Though at the time I had no inkling of how eating such a terrible diet day-in and day-out would impact my future health, in hindsight I marvel at my naivete and optimistic thinking. Just because I was not overweight did not mean that I had any business eating the way I did.
Indeed, the first of my serious gut issues began while living in our lovely little cramped flat above Bedford Square. I figured it was food poisoning from something I ate, but the weeks of stomach pain and gut trouble followed by months of eczema and acne were clues to a much deeper issue that had only just begun to manifest itself in my 21 year old body. It took me nearly another ten years to find my way to the diet and lifestyle changes that healed my body, and my journey is still being written as I discover more and more nuances about how my body reacts to certain foods and substances.
Today, I am still struggling to embrace a gluten-free, dairy-free lifestyle (a far cry from my former cheesy pizza-loving self), and my biggest challenge has been finding recipes that are satisfying, delicious, and still contain no gluten and no dairy. Many recipes I’ve tried have been hit-or-miss, though the biggest misses are usually in the form of pre-made or pre-packaged dairy or gluten free items. It’s as if someone ground up chalk and potato starch, then glued the two together with every possible gum/guar combination and decided to call it gluten free food. The best, most delicious gluten-free foods are naturally gluten free. Well-prepared, seasoned and cooked vegetables, meats and gluten-free grains really CAN be tasty if you have the right recipe. Here is my favorite recipe for gluten-free orzo pasta salad that is chock-full of gut-healing veggies…. and bacon. Because bacon is delicious, and in the quest to heal one’s gut, high quality animal fat is friend, not foe. And of course, because bacon is delicious…. damn delicious.
I love this recipe because it makes enough to feed my family of four for two meals. There’s nothing better than having a delicious leftover meal on hand that only gets better in the fridge – especially when you have a busy young family.
Ingredients (try to use organic whenever possible to keep your gut healthy!):
- 2 small packets of Delallo gluten free orzo
- 3-4 large carrots, washed, peeled & diced
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- 6 – 8 slices of thick, cooked bacon, chopped into bacon-bit size pieces (I like to cook mine on a rack above a baking pan in the oven, so most of the grease burns off and it gets a slight crisp without burning)
- Sea salt & pepper generously; to taste
- Garlic powder & chili pepper flakes for additional flavor, if desired (1/8 – 1/4 tsp each)
- 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
- Half a red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives
- 1 cup sweet cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
- 1 large cucumber, chopped
- juice of 1 large lemon
- 1.5 TBLs apple cider vinegar
- 2 TBLs olive oil
- Cook orzo & drain, set aside to cool in a large bowl
- Add veggies, spices, herbs, lemon, olive oil & vinegar to the cooled orzo, and toss together.
- Garnish with extra cilantro if desired (as in photo) – enjoy!