One of my lifelong dreams has always been to travel to Europe. When I was a little girl I would always imagine walking through the weathered, terra-cotta colored streets of Rome or Venice, reveling in the history and the thrill of adventure. I knew I had to see it all one day. So the year before our sweet Ezra was born, Craig and I decided to take our European trip while we had the chance, and I was definitely not let down.
We went to Paris, London, Lucerne, and many others, but as I expected it was Italy that stole my heart. The majestic cities- vestiges of such remarkable history, and the countrysides filled with vineyards and the quaintest little villas. And the food… oh my goodness the food was beyond words. Plenty of the expected indulgences; pasta, gelato, more cheese than you could ever eat. But what I wasn’t expecting was to come away with a renewed love for healthy, real foods. Everything was so fresh. You could taste the authenticity in every bite. It was so different than anything I’d experienced in America. Even the best homemade meal back home hardly tasted as real as the foods we would eat in the Italian restaurants. Fruits and vegetables were very common and though they had plenty of pasta and bread, it didn’t leave us feeling so bogged down like many of the breads that are so common here.
I immediately knew why their decadent foods left us feeling lighter than many of Americas “lighter” options: the ingredients were real. There was no corn syrup, preservatives, artificial flavors- it was simply real. The dough was made fresh, the vegetables weren’t from a can, and the dressings weren’t from a prepackaged bottle. And it was all…so…delicious. There are even many additives that are commonly used in America that are banned in parts of Europe! Multiple foods colorings, preservatives like BHT and BHA, hormones in dairy like rBGH and rBST, BVO, a oil in many drinks like Mountain Dew, as well as other additives commonly found in bread and chips in the USA are all banned in many parts of Europe. No wonder their foods feel and taste more pure!
One of the things that stuck with me the most that I’ve now added to our diet was an incredibly delicious and simple thing. I had this on our second day in Rome when Craig and I took our first trip by ourselves to a little restaurant down the street from our hotel. We were sitting outside on the patio area overlooking the street, sipping coffee in their tiny espresso cups when they brought me a little tossed salad that looked quite plain in all honesty. I was worried that I’d ordered something much too bland for my flavor loving taste buds, but as soon as I tasted it I was in love. It was so fresh and crisp and the dressing was light yet filling. They had two small bottles sitting on our table filled with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette and eventually I realized that was the simple dressing to my salad. Then it was topped with a generous amount of seasonings, some Parmesan, and that was it.
At this point in our health journey I was just getting over my love of ranch dressing and other highly processed and refined oil containing dressings, so realizing I actually enjoyed this simple combination was so exciting for me! When we ate pasta at another restaurant the next day and it was topped the exact same way (sans vinaigrette), I knew this would stick with us forever.
So here is the very easy, fresh and incredibly healthy dressing that we now use on most of our salad and pasta dishes that always takes us back to the romantic streets of Italy-
Authentic Simple Italian Dressing
1/8 cup Organic Virgin Olive Oil (or more to taste)
2-3 tsp Balsamic Vinaigrette (omit for pasta)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp pepper
Dried Red Pepper flakes (to taste)
Garlic salt, oregano and basil to taste
1-2 Tbs Organic Parmesan cheese
Option 1) Prepare a salad of lettuce, spinach, onion, tomato, carrots, or any other vegetables you prefer.
Option 2) Cook 2 cups of gluten free (or whole wheat) organic pasta. Add in some tomatoes, broccoli or green peppers if desired.
Mix all dressing ingredients and stir into your salad or pasta and enjoy!
Now that Ezra Grey is a part of our lives I’m sure we won’t be traveling to Italy again anytime soon, but at least we can reminisce about it every time we sit down to eat this delicious and easy meal!