Category Archives: Bites + Sips

Tuesday in Trader Joe’s : Dunkers & Caramels

we got back from thailand late sunday evening and i am still exhausted.
who knew jet lag could hit this hard?
and as much as i wanted to sleep the day away on monday, i had to work and then by the time i got off work i had to go grocery shopping since our kitchen was completely barren. then after all was said and done i was completely wired last night and could not fall asleep.
i was still up at midnight so i knew i had to take something if i was going to get any rest before work the next morning. thank heavens for ambien. but i really hate ambien at the same time. it feels like i am on something the whole next day and it does not feel good.

anyways, please excuse my pity party. after work i was actually excited to head to tj’s and grab some fresh vegetables after a week of eating out. while i was perusing tj’s, i was reminded of some more of my favorite sweet tj treats.

first up, dunkers!
let me preface by saying i don’t dip oreos, chocolate chip cookies or graham crackers in milk. that is just not how i roll. i prefer crunchy to soggy.
but tj’s dunkers are a whole different story.
dunkers are shaped long and skinny so it is easy to dunk in any glass, the chocolate chip cookie is extra crispy so even when you dunk you still get a crisp bite every time and the bottom of the cookie is coated with milk chocolate. need i say more?

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i totally thought these sea salt caramels were a holiday item so it was a nice surprise to find them on a shelf yesterday. the dark chocolate and sea salt caramel combo is money. both the chocolate and caramel are such high quality that the combo is even more delicious. i also love how big the sea salt chunks are that top the chocolates. it really brings out the flavor.
i have actually bought these caramels for a housewarming gift and the hostess couldn’t stop thanking me!

what are some of your favorite tj treats?


Tuesday in Trader Joe’s : Powerberries

before any kind of road trip, i always hit up tj’s.
i think i learned this from my mother. she always packed the car full of snacks (including her favorite — tj’s popcorn)  because who knows what will be available to you on the road and you want to give yourself healthier options (relevant to a big mac).
so besides a big bag of almonds and some apples, my other go to road trip snack is powerberries.
powerberries are “real fruit juice pieces made with acai, pomegranate, cranberry and blueberry juices and dipped in dark chocolate”. powerberries provide me with vitamin c and a somewhat natural sugar high all at once. the dark chocolate and fruit combo is money and i can’t get enough.

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i know costco has a similar product but can i let you in on a little secret? they are nowhere near as satisfying as powerberries.
why you ask?
because the costco version has various sizes in their bag so you could get a berry as big as a cherry or as small as a raisin. there is no uniformity. their chocolate to berry ratio is all off because of the lack of consistency. and frankly the chocolate is waxy.

what are your favorite road trip snacks?

Tuesday in Trader Joe’s : Cookie Butter Ice Cream

 remember when i said i have tried 90% of the desserts at trader joe’s?
well that was no exaggeration.
in fact, b read my post and asked, ” are you sure it is not more like 95%?”
{insert crying emoji here}
oh well i will own it and i will share another top tj (remember we are now calling trader joe’s tj because we see each other once a week and are the best of friends) dessert with you.

now i am sure you all have had cookie butter by now. and if not, well then what rock have you been sleeping under? i love cookie butter as much as the next guy. i think it is an inspired and delectable product. my dad was actually the one who introduced it to me many years ago and now i think it has consistently been in their pantry ever since. i mean a nice scoop of cookie butter does a mind good.

but i am more of a cold dessert lover. and so cookie butter ice cream is like the best of both worlds. it is a vanilla base ice cream with chunky cookie butter swirled in. and for those of you living under a rock, cookie butter almost takes like graham crackers + frosting + butter. so you can imagine what a treat it is to have in ice cream form.

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oh and don’t forget to top your cookie butter ice cream with midnight moo (tj’s substitute for hershey’s syrup but better).

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what are you favorite tj ice creams?

Tuesday in Trader Joe’s : Ice Cream Bon Bons

i may have tried 90% of the desserts that trader joe’s offers. i just love sweets and tj’s (can i call it tj?) has a great assortment.
the ice cream bon bons definitely makes my top 10 list.
i love the bite size helping which makes me not feel as guilty (around 100 calories for each bon bon) , the brownie layer at the bottom and the perfect ratio of chocolate to vanilla. you guys these are seriously heavenly.
b always makes fun of me when i buy these.
“having more bon bons are we?”
but he just doesn’t get how delicious the bon bons are. he doesn’t get that i love ice cream treats more than i love most people. he doesn’t get that one bon bon can turn my day upside down.

but you know who does get it? trader joe’s.

ice cream bon bons trader joe's


tip! don’t be fooled by the lemon bars located next to the bon bons. trader joe’s does not sort by best frozen treats to worst. those lemon bars are not worth the calories. i bought them once and was incredibly disappointed by the lack of flavor. yes, i do expect my lemon bars to be tart and have a strong lemon taste. maybe that is my bad. and maybe i have just been spoiled by my mom’s and ina’s lemon bars. oh well tj, you can’t win them all.

Tuesday in Trader Joe’s: Raisin Rosemary Crisps & Unexpected Cheddar Cheese

you may remember my love / obsession for cheese.
b usually prepares a cheese plate for us to indulge in after dinner 2-3 times a week. we have learned a lot about the art of pairing cheese as well as our personal preferences when searching for new cheeses. we have even gotten to the point where trader joe’s cheese is no longer that appetizing to us. it lacks the diversity that whole foods or specialty cheese shops provide.

but then my friend recommended trader joe’s unexpected cheddar cheese to be eaten on raisin rosemary crisps.
and i was skeptical.
first because i am not a lover of raisins. i eat them here and there but don’t seek them out. second because cheddar cheese? it sounds plain.

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and i was completely wrong. this combo is the perfect afternoon snack or an easy appetizer for a dinner party. the unexpected cheddar cheese is creamy, flakey and flavorful  and the raisin rosemary crisps are sweet, crunchy and earthy (as i am reading what i wrote for my description, it sounds bizarre but please just take my word for it). i probably could have eaten the whole block of cheese in one sitting but i am working on self control.

trader joe’s strikes again.

Tuesday in Trader Joe’s : Toasted Coconut Pancake Mix

i don’t really enjoy grocery shopping.
i borderline dread it if we are being honest.
b usually has to force me to go or else he does the shopping solo.
i hate (1) how grocery stores are always freezing, (2) i never really find everything i need and (3) there are way too many people.

but i do enjoy going to trader joe’s.
i know i know, i am a walking contradiction.
trader joe’s is where i will happily go. i like perusing their aisles for new things to try. i like the friendly neighborhood grocery atmosphere. i LOVE the food.
i know there are a lot of trader joe’s enthusiasts out there so i have decided to have a weekly post about my favorite trader joe’s products. each week, one new item will be reviewed until we sample the whole store (or we get over trader joe’s).

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a couple of weeks ago, i tried the toasted coconut pancake mix on a whim and i am completely sold. but i am an advocate of adding coconut to most things.

there is shredded toasted coconut in every bite of these pancakes. all you need is some macadamia nut or coconut syrup and i would feel as if i were transported back to hawaii.
let it be known, i usually make homemade pancakes (like we are talking 99% of the time). i am no fan of bisquick, aunt jemima, krusteaz, etc. because really people? pancake mix is not hard to make. and so that is why it was so weird that i not only tried this mix but thoroughly enjoyed it. i think because it had the extra dimension of toasted coconut.
another bonus?
all you have to do is add water. so yes you could make pancakes in less than 2 min. i guess this means these pancakes are vegan approved too? so win win on all accounts.

oh and just like i am not into aunt jemima pancake mix, i detest (i know strong word) aunt jemima syrup (and all other fake syrups). please please use pure maple syrup on your breakfast entrees. it makes a world of difference. it is a thinner consistency and has more flavor, which means you use less on each serving. i know it is a little pricier but i swear it is so worth it.

what are some of your favorite items at trader joe’s?

Baking Review : Lemon Ricotta Pancakes & Valentine’s Day Cookies

so it was pretty much raining all weekend in the bay area.
& although part of me wanted to finally go on a hike & enjoy the great outdoors,
the other part of me was loving a reason to be tucked away in a good book.

another thing i love to do when it is just pouring out there is bake.
i feel like it is the perfect excuse to bake the day away.
so guess what i did on saturday?
i baked and i ate and i read and i baked. it was actually quite lovely.
i am usually a busy body but it was nice to stay inside and hear the tip tappings on our roof.

and now that i have baked, i have some good recipes to share with you!
first up, a bountiful kitchen’s fresh lemon ricotta pancakes.

Fresh Lemon Ricotta Pancakes


okay, can i just say i think a bountiful kitchen‘s recipes are just the best? she is a mother and now grandmother so most of her recipes are tried and true — only recipes she would serve to her family. & i would definitely serve these pancakes to my family (except b hates pancakes so really it would just be for me ha). the only thing i wish was that they had more of a lemony flavor. but i may be in the minority. i am just obsessed with lemons. i would rather purse my lips after a lemon dish than not. so when i am to make these pancakes again, i would add some more lemon juice or i would top the pancakes with lemon curd (and keep pancakes as they are). oh lemon curd i love you so.
the above pancakes i topped with sweet condensed milk & powder sugar for a nice sugar high. i would recommend topping any type of pancake with sweet condensed milk. it is delectable.

then in the afternoon, i decided i needed to make a valentine’s day treat for some friends. so i researched and chose peanut butter cookies topped with chocolate hearts. i found an amazing recipe here

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never have i ever had such light and fluffy peanut butter cookies. and topped with chocolate hearts? i mean it is basically my idea of heaven. i strongly recommend this recipe and following all her tips. only tip i will add is don’t push the chocolate on the cookie, just lightly place. i kind of pushed my chocolates at first and then when the cookies were room temperature they crumbled a little. no bueno. just lightly place. oh and i did a mixture of dark and milk chocolate hearts.

so basically i gained 5 pounds this weekend but it was completely worth it.

what did you do this weekend?

The Perfect Fall Salad

lately I have been obsessed with all things Ina Garten. you know barefoot contessa? i really think she can do no wrong. every recipe she shares is so flavorful yet simple. this is my favorite style of cooking. it would be a dream cooking alongside her. we would swap dinner party stories, measure everything to a tee and dance to her barefoot contessa jingle.
when b’s parents came to town I knew it was the perfect opportunity to go all out and try some more of ina’s recipes. we tried her lemon chicken, overnight waffles and roasted butternut squash salad. all were delectable if I do say so myself but the one that stood out to me was the salad. i loved it. b who is not a squash lover loved it. b’s parents couldn’t stop raving about it. it had all the right ingredients (not too many of them) and can be thrown together quite easily. it is the perfect fall salad.



1 (1 1/2-pound) butternut squash, peeled and 3/4-inch) diced
Good olive oil
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 ounces baby arugula, washed and spun dry
1/2 cup walnuts halves, toasted
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the butternut squash on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the maple syrup, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Roast the squash for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until tender. Add the cranberries to the pan for the last 5 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, combine the apple cider, vinegar, and shallots in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until the cider is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Off the heat, whisk in the mustard, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

Place the arugula in a large salad bowl and add the roasted squash mixture, the walnuts, and the grated Parmesan. Spoon just enough vinaigrette over the salad to moisten and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

**i will say we substituted arugula for spinach just because we are spinach salad lovers. i am sure either work great.
another bonus is butternut squash is in season so Trader Joes has them available at a killer deal!

what do you think makes a good salad? what are you favorite recipes for fall?

Waffle Cone S’mores

I mentioned in my previous post on Pismo Beach the idea to roast s’mores in waffle cones  for a new twist on the classic campfire dessert. I got a couple responses asking for more details.
Let me explain what I mean a little better….


1. Buy waffle cones (sugar cones could work too depending on your preference) from your local grocery store (if your feeling really daring you could make your own — I am sure it would be that much more delicious).

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2. Fill the cone with mini marshmallows, skor bar crumbles, chocolate chips, peanut butter, banana or strawberries.

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3. Wrap cone in tin foil.

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4. Place on open grill and let it cook for 5-10 minutes.

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5. Remove tin foil and enjoy!

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I learned this method one night when I was volunteering with the cub scouts. I thought it was such a great idea — especially with young kids since it is so much less mess.

What are you favorite ways to cook s’mores?

Linked to: Treat Yo Self

Lemon-Zucchini Bread

In my kitchen I have this print hanging up



It is a great reminder to me what produce is in season and what I should be incorporating into our meals to get the best flavors. As I was perusing the list for summer, I came upon squash. I love all different types of squash particularly zucchini. My dad had a garden of zucchini when I was young and I can vividly remember steaming the home grown vegetable in the summer time. He was so proud of the fruits of his labor (as he should be because I have never had a more delicious zucchini).
I decided to think of something else besides steaming where I could incorporate zucchini and I remembered one of my favorite recipes I found two summers ago. It is for lemon zucchini bread with lemon glaze. Those two flavors balance each other perfectly. It is also a healthier summer treat and can be easily taken to eat while on the go, which is a win win (especially when I am always tempted with chocolate covered raisins and almonds at the office).

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Recipe can be found here.

This recipe is on the easier side but the product is nothing short of scrumptious. The lemon glaze makes the bread melt in your mouth. It is melting in mine as I type. Do give this recipe a try! It would be perfect to bring to a Summer potluck!

What is your favorite produce to use in your Summer meals?
I am also obsessed with peaches and plan on making many meals highlighting the  sweet and juicy fruit!

Linked to: Treat Yo Self