"The South is known for its hospitality, traditions, football, pageants, and food. Football is almost like a religion here. People say their priorities are faith, family, and then football. People eat, breathe, and sleep it in the South."- Katherine Webb

 

Football, which is an important part of the Southern experience for most folks, features prominently in of some of my own favorite memories. When I was in middle school, I began attending the exciting games under the Friday night lights at Shark Stadium. The crowd’s excitement was so contagious, especially in the section immediately surrounding Mrs. Martha Sanborn’s seat. Her excitement and support for the Port St. Joe Sharks made the experience that much better for my friends and me. She showed us what school spirit and the love of football was all about.

When my classmates and I were seniors, the Sharks became 2A state champs, and we called that year the “Purple Reign.” Prince’s song called Purple Rain was on auto-replay at every pep rally that year...and our pep rallies were loud, exciting, and fun. I am so glad I got to be a part of that.

Now, football was important not only at school, but in our home, as well. I remember my dad watching football in our living room every fall weekend, and I know he still does. I watched with him quite often as I was growing up. We would watch college ball on Saturdays, pulling for Clemson or Florida State, and on Sundays, we’d watch and pull for the Miami Dolphins. I loved Sundays because of that.

We’d come home from church, and mom would begin making one of her always-delicious Sunday dinners, maybe pork chops with rice and gravy and some vegetables like green beans with a special mustard seasoning she made. She’d usually ask me to make the tossed salad, which I always happily did, because I loved (and still love) chopping vegetables.

After lunch, it was football time during the fall months. I’d curl up on the couch in the living room, and start off with the best of intentions, planning to watch the game and root for our team. But, inevitably, the effects of rising early to get ready for Sunday School and services at Beach Baptist Chapel, the delicious meal that filled our bellies, and the sound of the commentators and the cheering crowd in the background, all conspired to lull me to sleep. I call those “football naps.” I thoroughly enjoy them, to this day.

Fast forward to 2018. I’ve been married for 27 years and we’ve been raising our sons for 24 of those years, and we have watched innumerable hours of football on TV, as well as in person. As you can imagine, I’ve made all kinds of things to satisfy their hearty appetites during those football games, too. There has been the usual fare, things like tortilla chips and queso dip, Ruffles with onion dip, buffalo wings from scratch with french fries on the side, Frito chili pie, and more.

This season, which is just getting underway, make sure to have extra snacks, a dessert or two, and a few healthy options for dieters who may join you at home or at a tailgate party. Just for these occasions, I came up with this amazingly tasty dip, which gets hot and gooey in the oven. I took some of the elements of one of America’s favorite foods, pizza, and created a layered dip to make every pizza lover happy...even if, heaven forbid, they don't like football.

This dip is decadent, though it can be made with all low fat cheeses, which helps lighten it up. Enjoy it with delicious toasted garlic baguette rounds, which are certainly easy to make! Or grab some tortilla or pita chips, or nice big corn chip scoops!

Then plan to get together with some people who love to cheer on their favorite team, and enjoy!

 

Hot pizza dip with garlic baguette rounds

 

Ingredients:

 

1 block low fat cream cheese (Neufchatel)

 

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

 

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

 

1 teaspoon garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)

 

2 cups low fat mozzarella cheese

 

1 cup grated cheddar

 

1 small can black olives, drained (optional)

 

1 package pepperoni (about 1 cup)

 

1 1/2 cups marinara or pizza sauce

 

Method:

 

1. In a small mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and Greek yogurt. To make it spreadable, you may microwave it for 20 seconds or so, then stir to combine.

 

2. Add Parmesan, garlic powder and Italian seasoning to cheese mixture, stirring well to combine.

 

3. Spread the mixture across the bottom of a pie plate or an 8′x8″ baking dish

 

4. Layer the other ingredients on top of the cream cheese mixture: cheddar, 1/2 the mozzarella, olives, pepperoni (save three to put on top for decoration) sauce, and end with the remaining half of the mozzarella. Place the three remaining pepperoni in the center of the top of the dip.

 

5. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until bubbly and slightly golden brown on top.

 

For the baguette rounds:

 

Slice a baguette from the grocery store bakery into 1/2-inch thin rounds. Place on a cookie sheet, and sprinkle with garlic powder. Bake at 350 until crisp and golden brown. They should be crisp for dipping into the thick, cheesy pizza dip!

 

Enjoy!

 

Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.

 

She is married and has three sons who love football and food, too. You can find more of her recipes at WhatSouthernFolksEat.com.You can email her at Steph@whatsouthernfolkseat.com.