Courtesy Kinsey Gidick

Best Holiday Desserts From Trader Joe's For Gifting Or Snacking

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Beginning to feel like the holiday party season just won't quit? I am. Oh sure, it's great to mix and mingle with friends and fam throughout the month of December. But I don't think I'm the first mom to have received one too many holiday cookie swap invites and thought, "think they'd notice if I just brought Trader Joe's cookies?" The answer: If they're your real friends, they won't care. With that in mind, I hereby give you the green light to pack a store-bought dessert to any of your remaining seasonal parties. I'll even give you a list of the best holiday Trader Joe's desserts to do just that.

But first, let's set some ground rules:

1) A dessert is whatever you say it is.

At this point in the season, when you're running on candy canes and adrenaline trying to get all the holiday shopping, card writing, and present wrapping done, you don't have time to debate whether ice cream sandwiches are holiday desserts (hint: they are. I'll prove it in a sec.) Bring what makes you happy and be done with it. Any host who wants to debate your choice needs to bone up on her Emily Post etiquette.

2. Something can still be dessert even if it isn't tooth-achingly sweet

Sure, kids love to inhale Lemon Heads and Gum Drops as they decorate ginger bread houses, but you're an adult, and if the idea of chomping on a Red Hot bedazzled gingerbread man makes you gag, that's OK. (See: Rule No. 1.) Dessert could be a plate of sweet fruit if you like. You decide.

3. Any party with dessert should be a "Treat Yo Self" safe space

What do I mean by "Treat Yo Self" safe space? I mean that if desserts are on the menu, it better be a guilt-free environment. You want to eat six cookies and call it lunch? I am not going to judge you. So grab another handful of those Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars. You can revisit your wellness plan in the new year — or not.

1. Chocolate Covered Pretzel Twist Assortment

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There's something about savory mixed with sweet that is so satisfying and these Chocolate Covered Pretzel Twists, which come topped with peppermint candy chunks, diced almonds, and rainbow sprinkles, are all that. Plus, they'll look A+ on festive plate display. For $8, your friends will be wondering why they stayed up all night making homemade peanut butter brittle.

2. Ginger Bread House Kit

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Breaking: ginger bread house kits are expensive. A quick google reveals prices ranging from $15 to $40. Not so with Trader Joe's ginger bread house. For $8 you get the house as well as candy and chocolate to decorate. Oh and did I mention an activity that'll entertain your child for at least an hour? Sold.

3. Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars

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Let me get something off my chest: I don't really like a ton of desserts. If I had my druthers, I'd opt for something savory over something sweet any day. That said, I just bought these darling Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Stars ($3) — which would make the perfect accompaniment for after Christmas dinner coffees — and they are the business. Tiny little mint bombs, they're as cute as they are delicious.

4. Panettone

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The holidays often make people reminisce about loved ones gone, grandma's who used to prepare massive Christmas feasts, aunts who would decorate batches of cookies, or elderly cousins who maybe still held onto recipes from older ancestors. If the recipe for Panettone has been lost to your Italian family, consider this Trader Joe's stand in. Sure it might not be like "mama used to make it." But at least it will evoke some of those old memories.

5. Holiday Ornaments Cookie Kit

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Let's hear it for another two-fer. For just $6, this Trader Joe's dessert offers you a snack and an activity. Trust me, your kids will love this.

6. Peanut Butter Roundels

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If you're attempting to sneak a Trader Joe's dessert into a party under the guise of having baked it yourself (as I strongly suggest you do), these Peanut Butter Roundels are a great choice. Just $4, they look the part while still being super tasty.

7. Peppermint Bark

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The description here really nails it: "Peppermint-infused dark chocolate; white truffle fudge atop it." Um, yes please. For $10, this dessert box is a no-brainer.

8. Belgian Cookie Collection

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If you, like me, like to wistfully imagine what Christmas might be like in another country as your child blasts Wham!'s "Last Christmas" for the hundredth time, might I suggest you pick up a box of Trader Joe's Belgian Cookie Collection ($10). It might not be a first class ticket to Brussels, but it's a start.

9. Ice Cream Sandwiches

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OK, OK, hear me out. I know what you're thinking. What are ice cream cookies doing on a holiday dessert round up? Well, I'll tell ya. Not all of us live in the land of ice and snow. For some of us down here in the South, it is not unreasonable to assume that Christmas could be in the high 70s. So yeah, a $5 box of ice cream cookies sounds pretty darn good when you're melting next to the fire.

10. Cheesecake in a Bite

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Pretty sure Trader Joe's carries these Cheesecake in a Bite ($6) desserts year round, but let's be honest, when are they not a good idea? Great for parties, the individual little cakes look darling on a plate and no one has to roll at their eyes at the dreaded "I'll just take a tiny slice" comment over a traditional cheesecake.

11. Mochi Strawberry

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Mochi is Japanese rice cake with ice cream inside and if that doesn't sound like a reason to celebrate, I don't know what is. These pink strawberry mochi ($5) are gorgeous and make for a festive change to the classic cookie tray.

12. Ginger Snowball Cookies

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Snow ball cookies! I mean can it get any more on theme? And for $4 a pop, you can buy a whole bundle.

13. Montezuma's Chocolate Truffle Collection

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Repeat after me: chocolate truffle collection. Is your mouth watering yet? Get the party started with this $8 box of "innovative British chocolate."

14. Nutty Praline Trio

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There are two kinds of people in this world: those who like pralines and those who love them. Got a lover on your list? Wow them this with this $8 nutty praline box. Better yet, buy two. They're likely not going to want to share.

15. Cookie Mix

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If you're like me baking involves buying a box-o-cookie mix at the store and adding eggs. Why not make that experience seem a little more inspired with these cute cookie mix tins. With flavors including Triple Chocolate, Cinnadoodle, and Toffee Oat, there's something for everyone. And at only $9 a piece, you could just buy all three.

16. Italian Cookie Assortment

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Wanna feel fancy but with little to no effort? Buy this Italian Cookie Assortment. Your $8 cookie tray will look like a million bucks.

17. Lebkuchen Cookies

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Real talk: Lebkuchen cookies look innocent, but they are highly addictive. I'm not saying you have to buy both the sugar glazed and chocolate covered varieties ($3), but if you want to spare yourself repeat grocery runs, do yourself a favor and double down on your purchase.

18. Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmellows

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Tis the season for marshmallows in hot cocoa, but if you're not near a stove, skip the liquid and get the same effect with these Dark Chocolate Covered Marshmallows. Bonus: No burnt tongue.

19. Coins of the World

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Perfect for stocking stuffers or a tabletop display, there's something fun about snacking on a gold foiled chocolate coin — or an entire baggy of them ($2).

20. Harry & David Comice Pears

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Since at least the Middle Ages fruit has been considered a dessert item. Prized pineapples and strawberries were a way to show wealth and privilege. In fact, "Louis the XIV prided himself in growing fruits in the middle of the winter," according to Food & Wine. Hey, if it was good enough for the Sun King's table, why not try it on yours? At $8, these Harry & David Cormice Pears won't cost you a king's ransom.