Wine Club

There’s something about being on the brink of a vacation that makes me feel totally relaxed. With only a few days of work left until we depart for Italy, it’s tough not to mentally check out and dream about the homemade pasta and the rolling Tuscan hills.

Since my “to-do” list is shrinking quickly, I had no problem settling into Wine Club at my friend’s apartment on a work night. Not to mention, her calming 27th floor view of Lake Michigan made it easy to sit back and enjoy the night.

We sipped on red wine made from the Garnacha grape, and enjoyed a tasty Mexican-inspired meal.

To start, we nibbled on the most addicting snack ever – Marinated Pretzels. The ranch and salty flavors had me going back for “just one more” too many times. Make these right now…I know I’m going to!

Marinated Pretzels

What You Need

  • 1 (15 ounce) package pretzels
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (1 ounce) package dry Ranch-style dressing mix, such as Hidden Valley Ranch mix
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder

What To Do

  1. Put the pretzels in a large bowl.
  2. In a medium bowl, blend the vegetable oil, ranch-style dressing mix, garlic powder and dill weed. Pour the mixture over the pretzels & mix them up to coat them all.
  3. Transfer the pretzels into a big zip-lock bag or tupperware container to marinate, tossing every once in awhile.
  4. If serving right away, put them on a cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees to help them dry (this is optional). If you have more time, you don’t have to bake them, they will just dry on their own.

After I ate enough pretzels to be considered a meal, we devoured Creamy Mexican Dip. The appetizer tasted like a 7-layer dip mixed up into one, uniform dip. It was so delicious and tasted sinful…I would have never guested it was a Weight Watcher’s recipe!

Creamy Mexican Dip

What You Need

  • 1 cup plain fat-free yogurt, Greek-variety recommended
  • 1/2 cup fat free salsa, chipotle variety suggested
  • 1/2 medium avocado, diced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro, fresh, chopped
  • 1/2 small uncooked red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp table salt, or more to taste
  • Garnish
  • 1/4 medium avocado, diced
  • 1 Tbsp cilantro, fresh, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp uncooked red onion(s), chopped

What To Do

  1. In a medium bowl, stir together yogurt and salsa until blended; stir in remaining ingredients except garnishes. Cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.
  2. When ready to serve, transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with garnishes.
  3. Serve with fresh vegetables and chips.

A couple bottles of wine later, we moved into dinner. My friend had made Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup with Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread on the side. The soup was loaded with corn, beans and chicken, and finished with just the right amount of spice. And the cornbread was heavenly and totally unnecessary, but a very welcomed addition.

Slow-Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

What You Need

  • 1 package boneless, skinless chicken (about 1 pound). Uncooked & refrigerated
  • 1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, mashed
  • 1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 1 can water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

What To Do

  1. Place chicken, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, onion, green chiles, and garlic into a slow cooker.
  2. Pour in chicken broth and water and season with cumin, salt, and pepper.
  3. Stir in corn and black beans.
  4. Cover and cook on Low setting for 6 to 8 hours or on High setting for 3 ½ to 4 hours.
  5. Remove the chicken towards the end of the cooking time to shred, and then mix chicken back in with the soup.
  6. Garnish with crushed tortilla chips, sour cream, shredded cheese, or avocados.

To end the fun night – a sweet treat of ice cream sandwiches! I’m continually amazed by the culinary talent of all my friends. It was undoubtedly another successful Wine Club night.

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