12.06.2014

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

Ingredients:
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

Directions:
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. 

Enjoy!



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

12.05.2014

November Instagram Round-Up

And just like that, it's Christmas! I can't believe Thanksgiving is already behind us, the tree is trimmed, and we're patiently awaiting Santa's arrival. I love this time of year, and even though I've had a cold this week, I am trying to soak it all up. Heading into December, our calendar is already full, but we're making sure to spend time with family and enjoy the season. The 24 Days of Togetherness is helping us appreciate the small things. My sister & her family as well as my parents are participating, too!

November was a great month, the highlight of course being our trip to Portland! Looking back at these pictures from Instagram, I'm reminded to be extra thankful for all of the blessings in my life...



// Favorite new scarf from my sister for my birthday! //

// Wishing I was sitting in those chairs with a good book & a cocktail! The most beautiful location for our friends wedding at Rancho Pescadero! //

// Missing my friend, Alex! It's been wayyyyy too long since we've seen each other! Over a year now! Unacceptable, this distance thing isn't working for me. We'll have to plan a weekend shopping trip or something fun next time I'm home. //

// Finally catching up on some posts from fun activities we did over the summer! //

// Fun dinner with friends before our Nikki & Jason's San Francisco Wedding! // 

// Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes - a fun outfit with my new favorite scarf. //

// Face Time with Phillip is always the best. But this night was especially entertaining, that is one WILD cowboy! //

// Veterans Day Post - thank you to all those who serve or have served in the Military. I love this old picture of Poppy (Andrew's grandpa) with his plane. //

// 2nd Annual Friendsgiving - prepping our trukey with the Pioneer Woman brine recipe //

// Who's ready for pie? Homemade pumpkin pie for our Friendsgiving feast! Next year, I'll even be able to make the dough from scratch because my Aunt sent me a recipe that she says is fool proof! //

// Group shot - we had quite a crowd this year, I think 25 or so at one point. Good thing we bought a 25 pound turkey! Everyone had a great time, I love this tradition. //

// There is nothing like a Newcastle mandarin. I feel sorry for those that think Cuties are delicious, they haven't tasted the real deal! Andrew and I managed to go through two 10 pound bags, good thing my parents are delivering more this weekend. //

// Our first stop in Portland, coffee! Such a cute little shop and a tasty latte! //

// Fun with family tasting at the Distillery in St. Helens. This bloody mary was so delicious, I had to buy a bottle of the mix to bring home with me. //

// Snuggles with my favorite little guy! I can't get enough, he is just too cute. When you turn the camera around so he can see himself, it makes for an adorable selfie! //

// One of my favorite traditions during Thanksgiving is our family walks. We go at least once a day, and Phillip made it extra entertaining this year. That boy has a lot of energy! And he lovesssssss his Mimi & Papa (my parents). //

// Andrew's Mom got me this chalkboard last year and I love changing it with the seasons/holidays. Next year I want to document each design so I can remember them. I liked my pumpkin for fall! //

// My Aunt had these delicious Pomegranate-Moscato cocktails for us on Thanksgiving. Delicious and festive! Cheers! //

// So thankful for Andrew. It means so much to me to be able to spend Thanksgiving with my family, and I know it must be hard for him to be away from his. //

// Our cutest little Hot Chocolate Bar! This was one of the highlights of Thanksgiving, I'll be sharing more pictures and details next week. It was fun having this special project with my Aunt Cheri :) //


I hope you all had a great week. We've been getting a ton of much needed rain, it makes me want to curl up by the fire with a good book. This weekend both Andrew's mom and my parents are visiting, so we'll be doing some holiday activities in the city. 

Be sure to follow From Foothills To Fog on Instagram to keep up with all of my adventures. 

Have a wonderful weekend!



12.04.2014

Thanksgiving 2014 in Portland


Once again, Thanksgiving was amazing. It is so nice being with family for a few uninterrupted days. I so enjoyed seeing my Portland family who I usually only see once a year (at most) and it was so fun having so much time to play with Phillip! He is the cutest little guy around. Such personality! 

We arrived to Portland bright and early on Wednesday. My Dad picked us up from the airport at 8:30am and we stopped for coffee on our way to my Aunts. We arrived just in time for breakfast with the family. After breakfast we got settled and went over our folders (my Aunt Cheri is so organized, and has a little folder for the girls with the recipes we'll be making printed out for us) and received our traditional hand made aprons. I love this tradition my Aunt started, it must take so much work but I LOVE having these aprons. They're all hanging in our hall closet and I smile every time I open it. I was excited because my folder included appetizers & a hot chocolate bar (more on that later). My sister is always in charge of decorating the table and doing place settings, she is a seasoned pro! And, oddly enough for a pregnant lady, she was also in charge of cocktails! :) And my Mom helps Aunt Cheri with all the main dishes. They're quite the team in the kitchen. 

After we settled in it was time to head over to my cousins new house! They just built an amazing home on a beautiful piece of property with a view of Mt. Hood. Everything was done except for carpeting (and cleaning) last week, so we were able to take a tour. It was amazing, I was ready to move in.  After we took a tour, my Uncle took us to see his new office and do a tasting at the nearby Distillery. I am not a huge hard alcohol fan, but it was so fun to do the tasting. Plus, they made mini cocktails and had boozy ice cream! I got vanilla with salted caramel sauce, it was incredible! After our tasting it was back home for more cooking and family time. While the girls were in the kitchen, the boys played hearts. It's a family tradition to play on Thanksgiving, Andrew won :) 

Thursday we were up early for a yummy breakfast. My Aunt seriously outdoes herself every time we visit. After breakfast we managed to squeeze in our walk (we did this nearly everyday). It's beautiful scenery and somehow we even managed to stay dry. The rest of the day was spent cooking, visiting, playing with Phillip, watching football and eating. Lots of eating. 

One of the highlights was a photo booth my sister created. We set up her tripod with a remote and she made the cutest little Thanksgiving theme props. It was so fun taking pictures before dinner. 

On Friday, we all had turkey hangovers! But we didn't let that stop us. We had lanes reserved for bowling with a big group. I didn't remember that I was such a terrible bowler! But it was still such a fun outing. Back at the house our day was spent with more of the same, cooking, relaxing, and prepping for an amazing Hot Chocolate Bar Dessert Table (more to come)! 

One downside to the weekend was that our cousin Colleen and her family couldn't join us at the last minute. Her oldest, Jason, is a senior football player and their team made it to State Championships! My brother in law figured out a way that we could stream the game online, so we hooked up the computer to the TV and all gathered around after dinner to watch Jason play. Sadly, they lost. But it was nice to support him in his final high school football game. And it almost made it seem like we were all together. 

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend filled with family. I feel so blessed to have such a wonderful, close-knit family. It was so relaxing and easy just hanging out with them for a few days! I hope you enjoy this little glimpse into our Thanksgiving weekend....

Mimi is Phillips favorite!
Prepping the table decorations on Wednesday night!
Our traditional (family favorite) spanakopita casserole in the making! 
Crafting with Mamma
Snuggles with Auntie
Apple Cider Mocktail for Sister / Pomegranate Cocktail for me!
Coloring a picture of "touchdown" (football) and "helmet" to wish Jason good luck!

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