California-Made Holiday Treats

The treasure trove of Bay Area-made products in the large holiday box designed by Farm Box. (Basket not included.)
The treasure trove of Bay Area-made products in the large holiday box designed by Farm Box. (Basket not included.)

Farm Box Holiday Gift Box

Imagine a goodie box stuffed with 15 delightfuly pampering products all made by Bay Area artisans. Who wouldn’t want to get spoiled with that?

Farm Box, a local company started during this ever-challenging year to help promote products from small family farms, has created the perfect holiday gift box — for your family, friends or even yourself — that can be delivered anywhere in the United States. Best yet, it helps support small local producers at a time when they could use a hand.

Farm Box co-founder Andreas Winsberg, whose father founded East Palo Alto’s Happy Quail Farms, sent me a sample box gratis to check out. Each box includes an extra special touch: a pretty painted card designed by his grandmother. Mine depicted the Golden Gate Bridge.

The filled-to-the-brim box in the large size ($129.99) includes: Nana Joes granola, Maison Verbena rose soap bar, Yerba Buena Tea Co.’s lemon-ginger-mint herbal tea, a Cache Creek Lavender sachet, Winters Fruit Tree’s applewood smoked almonds, Marshall Farms’ cute little baby honey bear, Eatwell Farm’s massage balm, Maison Verbena grapefruit soy candle with a cute little glass jar of matches, G.L. Alfieri dark chocolate and sea salt almond brittle, Charlotte Truffles’ fun Gourmet Hot Cocoa Stick, O’Live Healthy’s extra virgin olive oil, Kuhlmann’s Kitchen’s gourmet pepper jam, Llano Seco’s Chinese five spice salami, Dirty Girl Produce strawberry jam, and Cache Creek Lavender’s shea body butter.

The holiday box includes a sweet card painted by co-founder Andreas Winsberg's grandmother.
The holiday box includes a sweet card painted by co-founder Andreas Winsberg’s grandmother.

For less expensive options, a medium-sized holiday gift box is available for $79.99, and a small-sized one for $49.99.

Mad Crisp

How mad am I for Mad Crisp? These cocktail crisps are so addictive, you practically have to pry them from my fingers to make me share them.

These whole-quinoa puffs are airy and crunchy, and loaded with savory flavor. They were created by Younhee Choi, who has worked in marketing and innovation for companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle. She wanted to create an elevated snack that would pair well with cocktails and wine.

Chive Almond Mad Crisp.
Chive Almond Mad Crisp.

These are definitely more exciting to nibble on than the usual water crackers, as I found when I was sent samples.

Mad Crisp, baked in the Coachella Valley, comes in three flavors: Chive Almond, Za’atar Pistachio, and Porcini Herb. Each is made with puffed quinoa and nuts, as well as a host of bold seasonings.

The Chive Almond has a spring onion flavor with hints of garlic, and the subtle sweetness of crunchy almonds. The Za’atar Pistachio has the earthy Middle Eastern flavors of sumac, oregano, and sesame seeds. You immediately crave a dish of creamy hummus to go alongside it. The Porcini Herb with pine nuts boasts such an umami kick that it has an almost meaty taste.

Three flavors from which to choose.
Three flavors from which to choose.

You can easily eat any of the Mad Crisp flavors by the handful as is. They’d also be wonderful additions to a cheese or charcuterie plate or crumbled over soups, salads or roasted vegetables such as broccoli or winter squash.

A 4-ounce package is $15 at Whole Foods, Farmshop, Mission Bay Wine & Cheese, and Foodhall. Or in a three-pack for $36 on the Mad Crisp site.

Much Better Butter

Want a delicious alternative to peanut butter? Look no further than Much Better Butter.

It’s a thick, rich spread made with organic sunflower seeds instead. Company founder Tina Wolfe makes the spread in small batches in Berkeley. She adds amino acids to neutralize the bitter taste sunflowers seeds can have. The result is a roasty-toasty, very concentrated sunflower seed taste.

Berkeley's Much Better Butter.
Berkeley’s Much Better Butter.

Sunflower butter and peanut butter contain the same amount of fat, according to Wolfe, but the former has a higher percentage of unsaturated fat. Sunflower butter also is higher in magnesium and Vitamin E. Sunflowers also require much less water to grow than almond trees, making sunflower butter a more environmental-friendly choice than almond butter.

Much Better Butter comes in three flavors, which I had a chance to sample recently: Roasted with Sea Salt, Honey-Kissed, and Chocolate Treat.

The Roasted with Sea Salt and Honey-Kissed both have a deep khaki-mud hue, not necessarily the prettiest color, but not off-putting, either. The Roasted with Sea Salt is the most savory of the three, not sweet at all, but deeply nutty tasting. It’s creamy with a slight graininess. Besides spreading on bread, this would be a great swap for most any recipe that you’d use tahini in.

The Roasted with Sea Salt flavor.
The Roasted with Sea Salt flavor.

The Honey-Kissed is just barely sweetened with raw Hawaiian honey, adding a roundness to it. It would be wonderful to bake with or to add to your morning yogurt or smoothie.

The Chocolate Treat incorporates Guittard semisweet Fair Trade chocolate, but still has less than 5 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoon-serving size. It has enough chocolate to satisfy yet doesn’t veer into candy-land like most commercial Nutella-type spreads that are so heavy on sugar. So, you don’t have to feel guilty about letting your kids spread it thickly on apple slices, banana slices or pancakes.

A 2 tablespoon-serving has 180 to 190 calories, depending on the variety. Much Better Butter is sold in 12-ounce jars for $12.99 each. It’s available on the Much Better Butter site, as well as at Bay Area retailers such as Rainbow Market, Luke’s Local, Monterey Market, Rocky’s Market, Mill Valley Market, and Bianchini’s Market.

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