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Julie's Olive Tapenade - Holiday Memories with Mezzetta

There is nothing like the Holidays and spending time with family. As soon as Thanksgiving is over, I'm overcome by the Christmas spirit. I love listing to Christmas music, watching my favorite holiday movies, and decorating our home. I can't really explain it, but Christmas just fills me to the brim with joy. I can't help but smile as I drive through the city and see Christmas trees lit up in the front window (San Francisco has the perfect architecture for this)! Being in the city makes this time of year feel extra festive, but there is no place like home for the holidays.

Growing up, we had so many wonderful traditions. Of course, they've evolved over time, but one thing that hasn't changed is the importance of family. I think I got my love of tradition from my Mom. She works so hard to make sure that everyone is happy and feels extra special during the holidays. She goes the extra step to make the house feel festive, spending an entire day baking a variety of fresh cookies, making a gourmet dinner - this explains her nickname, "Everybody's Sweetheart."

One of my Mom's favorite holiday traditions is the Playgroup Christmas Dinner. "Playgroup" is what we lovingly call my Mom's best friends. When my sister was born, she met a group of women at the local library during story time. Since they all had children around the same age, they decided to schedule play dates with each other. Over the years, as their family's grew, they became the best of friends. And as a result, I grew up with an extended family, almost like cousins. We went camping in the summer at Donner Lake, met once a week after school for "playgroup" and had a back to school picnic each year. Even after the kids grew, our Mom's continue to meet once a week (or as often as possible) for coffee and pastries. They've shared nearly every experience life can throw at you, and created an amazing little Playgroup family. Every Christmas for nearly 30 years, they leave the kids at home for a Christmas dinner party. Each year, they rotate houses and everyone brings a little something to contribute. They drink wine, enjoy dinner and celebrate the holidays and their friendship.

Playgroup Christmas Dinner 1993 - my Mom thinks this is the first year Julie made the Olive Tapenade
Playgroup Dad's are pretty cool, too :) 

One of the favorite recipes from this event has been Julie's Olive Tapenade. Everyone loves it so much, and now my Mom makes it for many of our family gatherings. It's become one of my favorite appetizers, synonymous with the Holidays. It's a delicious and simple recipe, the perfect contribution to a holiday party, and sure to please a crowd.

When I was asked to participate in the Mezzetta Campaign and share a favorite recipe, I knew exactly what I wanted to share with all of you. I already have Mezzetta jars overflowing in my fridge and pantry, but this is my favorite way to use their products! (They're pretty handy for the perfect Bloody Mary bar too)!

Mezzetta makes cooking a breeze, which is especially nice during the busy holiday season! I know my to do list this month is a mile long, and having a simple go-to appetizer recipe that's ready in minutes and can be made ahead of time is exactly what I need!

Julie's Olive Tapenade - makes 2 cups

2 1/2 cups drained pitted kalamada olives (you can substitute black olives or a mixture)
1 Garlic clove
2 Tbsp Pine nuts
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Coarsely chop 1/2 of the olives and set aside. In a food processor whirl remaining olives and garlic, pine nuts and 1 Tbsp olive oil. If too stiff, add remaining oil. Stir in chopped olives. Cover and refrigerate, it will keep for 1 week. Serve at room temperature with toasted bread slices or crackers. 


I hope you enjoy this recipe! I loved making it and reminiscing on my fondest holiday memories. I am so thankful that my Mom gave me an appreciation for holiday traditions, I think it's a big part of what makes the holidays so special. 

As I wrote this post, it was so fun recalling memories of Playgroup and the relationships it brought into my life. Although all of us 'kids' have moved on from our sleepy foothills town, we have a bond that I think is pretty special. And we have our amazing mothers to thank for this! What wonderful role models they've been for each of us. While we don't see each other all that often, I love getting updates from my Mom about what everyone is up to. And thanks to Facebook, I'm still in touch with those my age who I was especially close with. My friend Katherine just sent me a few photos the other day from a camping trip when we were about 9!

This Christmas season I am thankful for these holiday traditions. It's not the gifts under the tree, but the traditions and memories we share with our friends and family that make this time of year so special.

If you'd like to make this recipe for a holiday party, Mezzetta is offering a downloadable $.50 off coupon on any Mezzetta product. The coupon is located on the campaign landing page and is available until December 31st.

And while you're there downloading your coupon, don't forget to enter the Daily Holiday Gift Basket Giveaway! The giveaway will run through the end of the month, so there are still 24 prizes available!

What is your fondest holiday memory?

And just for fun, a few more vintage Playgroup pictures for you!

Playgroup Camp - Donner Lake (1984?)
Playgroup Camp - D.L. Bliss, Lake Tahoe (mid 1990's)
Tuolumne Meadows (1995?)

Many thanks to Mezzetta for sponsoring today's post & inspiring me to sit down to reminisce on my favorite Holiday memories & recipes.

Also thanks, Mom for scanning these old Playgroup pictures for me!

Linking up with these ladies:

 Pint Sized Baker


  1. Love your pictures and memories! Also love your olive tapenade - looks so good. I'm an olive lover so I know I'll be making this soon.

  2. That dip sounds delicious! What great memories! That is so sweet your mom is still close to all those women.

  3. love the pics! Sooooo many good memories! :)

  4. That looks so good! And that serving bowl and knives are so cute Tre!

  5. I love reminiscing over old family photos, these are great! What a fun idea to link a recipe to fond memories.


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