Who doesn’t love pizza in any form?  Around Super Bowl time, I was seeing all kinds of pizza dips popping up as suggestions for game day fare.  Football is not a huge deal at our house and so I had to wait for another occasion to make a version of pizza dip.  Hosting book club last week happened to be the perfect reason to give it a try.

Many of the recipes that I have seen for pizza dips involve cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream as a base layer.  One of my favorite swaps for mayo and sour cream that makes dishes healthier is nonfat plain Greek yogurt.  It is tangy, thick and creamy without being heavily laden with calories and fat.  I also cut down on a few calories and grams of fat by using reduced-fat (part skim) mozzarella cheese.

This dip is plenty flavorful even with these healthier modifications.  Top the dip with a variety of vegetables and you’ll really have a popular dip that you can feel great about serving.

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combine cream cheese, yogurt, garlic powder and Italian seasoning

spread cream cheese mixture into pan

top with pizza sauce

sprinkle cheese over the sauce

top with chopped veggies (and meat, if using)

bake until cheese is melted and serve

 

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I have lived in Minneapolis for 11 years now and even though Chicago is only about 400 miles away, somehow I had never made it there until last weekend!  My husband has always said how much he thinks I would love Chicago since New York is my favorite city and he says Chicago is basically a midwestern New York.  Since we both had a few days off, we decided to make a road trip of it and took off last Saturday for a few days of exploring a new city.

My husband knows me well and I completely fell in love with this city.  The people were so friendly, the city so buzzing and beautiful, the shopping was colorful and exciting and the food was some of the best I have ever had.

Did I mention that the food was exquisite?  I feel like we really hit the city hard and settled some debates in our minds:  best pizza, best cupcakes, a true love for mussels.  Each time I would tell my husband that we had to go get a cupcake from Magnolia, Sprinkles or Crumbs for research and because I had a duty to fulfill.  Thanks for being my excuse sweet teeth!  I did want to experience all that the city had to offer so that I could come home and share my food explorations with you!

Let’s start with pizza.  Obviously Chicago is known for deep-dish pies oozing with sauce and cheese.  If you ask most Chicago natives, they will tell you about a rivalry between two pizza joints:  Lou Malnati’s and Giordano’s.  My husband and I felt that if we tried one, we had to be fair and try the other one to compare. We agreed to order the same simple pepperoni pizza at both locations for a fair comparison.

First up was Lou Malnati’s.  Lou’s is known for their thick, chunky tomato sauce and “World Famous Buttercrust”.

I knew we were in for a treat as soon as this pizza landed on our table.

The sauce on this pizza had big chunks of tomatoes and was a perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness.  The cheese was abundant, but not overwhelming.  And the real magic in this slice was the crust.  I almost want to describe it like a cookie.  It was crispy on the outside, but perfectly chewy and not soggy on the inside.  The thickness of the deep dish was ideal as it was just enough of that perfect crust without drying out the entire pizza.  We were pretty sure that it couldn’t get much better than this.

On our last day, we made it a point to eat lunch at Giordano’s before we left town.  Giordano’s is know for it’s stuffed deep-dish pizzas.  Yes, that’s right, a bottom crust topped with cheese and any other toppings then topped with another crust that is then smothered with sauce.

As you might be able to appreciate from the photos, this pizza was basically cheese and crust with a side of sauce.  I like my pizza saucy, so this didn’t do it for me nearly as much as it’s rival.  The cheese was also a bit chewier and reminded me more of a mozzarella cheese stick than perfect ooey gooey pizza cheese.

I thought I would love the crust on top of more crust, but this crust just wasn’t that buttery goodness we had come to expect from deep dish.  It was more dry and we found ourselves wanting extra sauce to dunk the crust in.  So, if you still need me to spell it out for you, our opinion on this Chitown rivalry is that hands down, Lou Malnati’s has the BEST Chicago deep-dish pizza!

Stay tuned for my new ultimate favorite cupcake bakery!

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