It’s that time of year, when stores pack away the Halloween orange and black goodies and start setting out the winter holiday wares. Snowflakes, snowmen, Santa Clauses galore. What I had hoped to be a quick trip to Trader Joe’s to pick up some ginger chews turned out to be an exciting kid-in-a-candy-store feeling with all of the holiday items back on the shelves.

My spoils of war after battling the after-work crowd at Trader Joes!

My favorite by far: Dark Chocolate Stars. Shortbread cookies dipped in dark chocolate and covered with white sprinkles. Think of those pink and white frosted Circus Animal cookies from your childhood… this is the grown-up version. I probably go through 3 or 4 boxes before the end of the season. (I daresay, I get even more excited about these than Girl Scout cookies!) A one-pound box sells for only $4.99!

I hear they also make great cupcake/cake decorations!

I also picked up a remnant of fall before they all get shoved aside to make room for winter: Pumpkin Butter. It comes in an adorable little jar and has the texture of a marmalade. Delicious on English muffins and all sorts of creative ideas listed on the jar such as “…pastry filling, poultry glaze, ice cream topping, on toast or mixed with fat free cream cheese for a unique spread.” $2.99 for a 10 oz jar.

I once had a teacher who loved the expression “the best thing since apple butter”. I think he’d approve if I substituted this pumpkin butter instead. :)

What I found out from my friendly cashier Colleen was that Whole Grain Rye Mini Toasts are also on the holiday list! She likes them on their own, but when I saw them, I immediately thought of making my own Chex Mix the way it should be – none of those darn pretzels or bread sticks that end up abandoned at the bottom of the bag. Just lots of rye chips and cereal, with extra zesty seasoning. Recipe to come! I’ll be stocking up on these before the season ends. $1.99 for a 6 oz bag.

You’re my favorite part of Chex Mix, but shh.. don’t tell the cereal!

Another winter staple is Peppermint Bark! Martin and I have a fondness for the squares from Ghiradelli, which don’t really resemble peppermint bark very much at all but are delicious nonetheless. I thought it would be a nice treat to welcome the dreary winter season with some festive peppermint bark in an adorable metal tin. The tin holds one pound of peppermint bark and goes for $9.99.

What an adorable little tin!

The last item I bought, ginger chews aside, was a Milk Chocolate Orange. Yes, my friends, those interactive spheres of chocolate that you WHACK against a hard surface to break into orange-like sections. Trader Joe’s has their own and we are very excited to try them! And at $2.49 apiece, it’s a steal!

Can’t wait to take this out of the wrapper and *whack*!

There are lots of other winter treats on the shelves this year as well. Even more than previous years, it seems to me. And of course since it’s Trader Joe’s, everything is very affordable and many of the items are organic. (I noticed on the label for the rye chips that they’re Kosher!) With shelves stocked full of gift boxes of truffles, peppermint coated pretzels, candy cane cookies, sparkling ciders in many flavors… ’tis the season!