Columnist Judi Leaming says behind every great wine is a great snack to go with it.

    I’m typing this column as we are sitting near the shoreline of a lake just outside Watkins Glen, N.Y. This morning we loaded up Betsy and headed up here to meet with good friends from our Lazy Daze RV Group for our fall outing. It was suggested that since we were in wine country, someone needed to conduct a seminar on wine tasting and so soon after we pulled in, Spicer and his wine glass (real glass — no plastic, please!) headed off to taste test some of the wines that are available in this area.

    I stayed behind in Betsy to prepare the Ranch Bean Dip I planned to take later for the appetizer portion of the wine tasting. Before we left Dover I had prepared April’s Roasted Red Pepper Cheese but the bean dip must be served hot so I needed to quickly prep that and pop it in the microwave. Both of these recipes come from and they both are almost embarrassingly easy to prepare. I converted the Roasted Red Pepper to a spread rather than the called for cheese ball because it seemed simpler to serve that way. Besides, this recipe makes a very generous amount and so I left half in the refrigerator in Dover to enjoy when we return.

    My sister-in-law Lynda prepared BBQ Ranch Bacon Dip for us during family week in Cape May this year. Her daughter Susan discovered this recipe on Susan suggested using less of the ranch dip than the recipe calls for because she felt the end result was too salty and so Lynda used just two tablespoons of the dry mix when preparing the recipe for us.

Ranch Bean Dip
1 (16-ounce) can refried beans
2 cups finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 (1-ounce) package (or just 2 tablespoons) dry Ranch dressing mix
1 cup regular or low-fat sour cream

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix to blend well. Pour into a one-quart microwave-safe dish and microwave until hot and bubbly, about five minutes. Serve with Tostitos scoops.

April’s Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Ball (or spread)
2 (8-ounce) packages regular or low-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (8-ounce) package finely shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup jarred roasted red pepper, drained and chopped

In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese, Cheddar cheese, onion powder, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Using a hand mixer, beat just until blended. Stir in the chopped and drained roasted red pepper. Scrape into a bowl, cover and chill. If a cheese ball is desired, after the mixture is well-chilled, shape into a ball or log and roll in either parsley or chopped pecans.

BBQ Ranch Bacon Dip
2 (8-ounce) packages regular or low-fat cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons dry Ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped red, green or yellow pepper
1 tomato, chopped
7 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled (think about using precooked & crumbled bacon)
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
2 green onions, finely minced
Tostito scoops

Mix cream cheese with dry ranch dressing mix and spread onto the bottom of a nine-inch pie plate or pretty serving dish. Spread barbecue sauce over the cream cheese layer. Sprinkle chopped pepper evenly over barbecue sauce. Sprinkle chopped tomato evenly over peppers. Sprinkle on the crumbled bacon. Top with shredded Cheddar cheese then minced onion. Cover and chill several hours before serving with Tostito scoops, crackers or celery/carrot sticks.

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