Julie & Julia Round 3: Healthiest Garlic Pizza Ever

I absolutely love pizza. I mean, I luh-uhve pizza.

Unfortunately, I largely attribute my 40-lb. weight gain in college to my incessant pizza crushing, so I'm always a little weary when I'm confronted with a big, greasy, cheesy, scrumptious slice. When it comes to pizza chowing, I'm akin to Old School's Frank the Tank - once I start, I can't stop.

"Once it hits your lips, it's sooo good. Ok, one more, one more."

Therefore, I've sadly taken a bit of a pizza hiatus.

Until last night, that is. This insatiable pizza craving overcame me - I think it was Groundhog Day Eve - and since I'm weak when it comes to food, I tend to succumb to cravings.

However, seeing as I'm trying to avoid hopping on the fat train, again, I set out to make the healthiest pizza possible. No Little Caesars, no frozen DiGiorno - I was attempting pizza from scratch.

Now, this creation is not a novelty, but since I'm still wading in the baby pool when it comes to home cooking, I was a homemade pizza-making virgin. Therefore, it is my original.

This recipe also is not an adaptation from The Garlic Lovers' Cookbook, Vol. II, but since it involves me cooking, trying a new recipe, using garlic and not killing anyone in the process, this is officially recipe number three in "Angie's Quest to Garlic Cooking Greatness;" the non-blockbuster, garlic version of Julie & Julia.

So, here's where my healthy pizza endeavor led me. (Note: Feel free to use any fresh vegetables you'd like; I suggest subbing zucchini, bell peppers, artichokes, broccoli, spinach or jalapenos for any veg listed below. My ingredients are merely based on the bounty available in my fridge. I'd rather walk on nails than venture to Ralphs at 6 p.m. on Mondays.)

Healthiest Garlic Pizza Ever

Servings: 1

Ingredients:

- 1 individual whole-wheat pizza crust;

- 1 medium tomato - sliced;

- 1 shallot - minced;

- 12 garlic cloves - peeled;

- 5 fresh basil leaves;

- 12 crimini mushrooms - halved;

- 6 asparagus stalks - chopped;

- 4-tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil;

- Handful of low-moisture mozzarella cheese;

- Pepper to taste

Preparation:

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

- Lather 2 tbsp. of olive oil across the pizza crust.

- Spread the tomatoes, asparagus, garlic and mushrooms evenly over the crust.

- Sprinkle the shallots throughout, and place the basil leaves on top.

- Add the cheese evenly across the toppings, and drizzle the remaining 2 tbsp. of olive oil, as well as a few pinches of pepper, atop the cheese.

- Place pizza in the oven, and allow to cook 20 minutes, before checking. You'll know it's finished when the crust is browning and edges are crisping, the cheese is sizzling and the mushrooms and asparagus have softened. There should be a warm pizza parlor smell – and the sound of cheese crackling – proliferating your kitchen. Typically takes 20-30 minutes, however, everyone has a personal preference for "how-done" they like their pizza. I like mine good and crispy.

- Remove pizza, slice into quarters, and serve warm. I always douse mine in red pepper flakes, too, because in addition to crispy, I like my pizza hot!

Thoughts: It is hard to beat the artery-clogging flavor of grease and cheese, but my healthy alternative, in my humble opinion, gives Little Caesars a run for their money, and is exponentially healthier. I love the taste of fresh, roasted vegetables, especially garlic's nutty essence, the tart crunchiness of asparagus and bold, wine-like flavor of mushrooms. And, by using all fresh veggies, low-moisture cheese and substituting olive oil for sodium-filled tomato sauce, you can actually taste the vegetables; not just the grease and cheese. This pizza is actually - dare I say - good for you.

Guilt-free pizza - now that's a novel concept. Go ahead, eat two if you want. I did.

As Julia Child would say, "Bon Appétit!"

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