Olive You! Easy Holiday Recipes and Entertaining Inspiration

As the holidays approach, I think fondly of all those who are near and dear – and also my loved ones further away. And, of course, the readers of my blog and friends and supporters on social media are on my mind and heart, what would I do without you all! I just want to let you know that it would be the total PITS without you . . .  OLIVE YOU! Because OLIVE YOU so much (bear with the puns please), I’m sharing some of my favorite ways to use olives in holiday recipes.

Olive You

First, it’s cocktail hour. Might I suggest skewering up a salty olive to complement a sweet drink – you’d be surprised at how well the combination goes. Because I fall on my face easily enough sober, I typically limit myself to ½ a drink. With just one “mini” drink, I can still wake up refreshed for the fiercest workouts and morning to-do lists, but can still enjoy a little taste of fa-la-la libations.

Cranberry Martini with Mezzetta Olive

Here, I’ve added a Mezzetta Olive to a Mini Cranberry Martini – it’s a tablespoon each of vodka and cranberry juice along with a splash of lime juice – and cranberries for garnish.

Mezzetta Olives for a Cheese Board

Holiday Olive TrayNo cocktail party would be complete without an olive tray and cheese board filled with delicious noshes –  olives, aged cheeses, seasonal fruit, artisan crackers and an array of almonds. It’s simple yet sophisticated as a focal “snack” for your festivities and also makes a lovely prelude to any holiday meal and creates an abundance of Mezzetta Memories.


Pasta with Blue Cheese OlivesSpeaking of holiday meals, think of all those busy-night dinners leading up to and after the BIG DAY where a huge roast or bird isn’t on the menu – yet you have a house full of folks who have worked up quite the appetite shopping, wrapping, visiting, caroling, baking or being on hall-decking detail. My recipe for Pasta with Blue Cheese Olives is the easiest, most amazing holiday meal that comes together practically in the wink of an eye – or as long as it takes to cook pasta al dente. If you’re making it after Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanza or whatever your holiday celebration may be, feel free to toss in any leftover main course protein such as beef tenderloin, pork roast or turkey breast!

Pasta with Blue Cheese Olives Recipe

  • 8 ounces uncoooked whole grain pasta
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup Mezzetta Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives, halved crosswise
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 12 ounces pre-cooked protein leftovers, like chicken, turkey, roast beef
  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat up olive oil in large skillet and saute garlic and red pepper flakes for approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add olives and tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes until warmed.
  4. Toss with noodles optional protein leftovers (warmed) and a little extra olive oil, if needed. Season with salt to taste. Stir in blue cheese while still warm.
  5. Serves 4.




Pasta with Mezetta Blue Cheese OlivesBeing able to make a speedy yet special recipe like Pasta with Blue Cheese Olives which uses extraordinary ingredients I wouldn’t necessarily use every day (including gourmet olives, bold blue cheese and sun-dried tomatoes) frees up my time to make more meaningful Christmas memories with family and friends that will last a lifetime. Plus, I appreciate the fact that Mezzetta, a fourth generation family-owned company, also values holiday tradition, family and providing the highest quality olives available from the sun-drenched soils of California, Italy, Spain, France, and Greece. I like to keep quite a few varieties of Mezzetta olives stocked in my pantry for impromptu salads, pizzas, pastas, snacks and more — inspiration is just a twist away!

Mezzetta MemoriesPlease visit Mezzetta to find daily inspiration and enter the Holiday Memories Sweepstakes for a chance to win the holiday memories sharing pack. One winner will receive an Instant Print Digital Camera plus an Ultimate Olive Lover’s Gift Basket and ten others will receive the Ultimate Olive Lover’s Gift Basket – I have one, it’s fabulous! Expires Dec. 31, 2015 – enter here.

What are your favorite holiday memories that involve gathering friends and family around good food? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

Vibrant & Vitamin-Packed | Mediterranean Carrot Fennel & Green Olive Salad

Yesterday morning’s run began mild and balmy; the thermometer read 71 degrees as I headed out the door for my 12 mile route around the neighborhood. At mile 8, as I rounded the corner, a startling blast of crisp air hit my body and by the time I made it home, the temperature had fallen 25+ degrees and the rain was falling. And, this morning, it is well below freezing – boy, how things can change and change fast!

salad with olive fennel carrot kale

However, one thing that never changes is my body’s need for healthy fuels to function optimally. Eating lean meats, an abundance of veggies plus fruit and whole grains keeps all my systems humming along and ready to face whatever the day (and weather) throws my way.  The menu at my house is a lot like the Mediterranean Diet I recently covered for Litehouse Food’s blog, Litehouse Living.

Instead of being a short-term “diet” in the “must lose weight” sense, the Mediterranean Diet is a healthy-eating lifestyle that promotes fresh and flavorful foods with long-term health benefits. A reduced risk for cardiovascular disease has long been touted as a perk of following this approach to eating, but new research, as reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2013), shows the Mediterranean diet can help middle-age women increase their lifespan, avoid physical and cognitive impairments, and reduce the risk for other chronic illness common in older age.

I created a vibrant and vitamin-packed recipe for Mediterranean Marinated Fennel, Carrot & Olive Salad that I know you will love  — grape tomatoes and kale are also part of the healthy mix.  Also, this fresh salad is topped with a red wine and olive oil dressing, two ingredients that are embraced by the long-living residents of Greece, southern Italy, Crete and other areas bordering along the Mediterranean sea. These wise folks would also suggest to sit back and enjoy your meal with family and friends — strong social connections help you to live longer, as well!

Mediterranean  salad

 Fennel, Carrot and Olive Salad Recipe

  • 4 fennel bulbs sliced thinly
  • 8 large carrots sliced thinly
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into matchstick strips
  • 1 cup pitted whole green olives
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped Basil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chopped Thyme
  • 2 teaspoon fresh chopped Parsley
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 ounce red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

1. Add fennel, carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, olives and kale into a large, non-reactive bowl; toss together.

2. Sprinkle vegetables with basil, thyme and parsley; lightly toss.

3. Make a red wine dressing by placing olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, lemon juice in a jar; shake until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to tastes. Pour over vegetables and stir until coated.

4. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least one hour, or overnight.

5. Serve as a side dish or on a bed of lettuce for a larger salad.

Serves 6


This salad is perfect served as a side, but you could also top it with the lean protein of your choice. I think grilled or oven-roasted shrimp would be fantastic.

roasting shrimp

It’s simple and speedy to roast shrimp in the oven. I do this frequently for entrée salads such as my Pomegranate Jicama Salad. First, preheat the oven to 400 F degree. Next, peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place shrimp on a sheet pan with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stir shrimp around a little to coat them in oil and then spread in a single layer. Sprinkle with the herbs and spices of your choice. Finally, roast for approximately 8 minutes, just until pink and firm and cooked through.