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White Sangria: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food—from colorful veggies and delicious smoothies to festive cookies and fun cocktails. That’s why we’ve enlisted our in-house kitchen geek Nicole to share her cooking tips every week: seasonal ingredients, nifty tools, and must-try recipes. 

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The famous wine punch of Spain, sangria is the savior of outdoor gatherings—and an excellent alternative to beer. An icy stew of fruit  and wine topped with just a splash of soda water, this refreshing tipple comes in many forms—all of them divine on a hot summer day. 

Sangria and other boozy punches came about because of poor water quality back in the day. Alcohol was a form of protection against bacteria-induced sickness (as well as a cure for cholera, the common cold, or labor pains). And in Spain, wine was the alcohol of choice, thanks to the country’s long history of wine production. (The first grape seeds in the area date back to 3000 BC.)

During the 1964 World’s Fair, Americans were introduced to sangria and quickly adopted it. 

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Sangre means ‘blood’ in Spanish, and traditional sangria is made with a hearty, earthy red wine (like a Rioja). When it’s this hot, I prefer a white sangria with refreshing fruits like apples and pears. But there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making your own. Citrus fruits or orange juice will add a little pop and I like to throw Chambord, a raspberry liqueur, into the mix. 

The only way to go awry with a sangria recipe is to not save any for yourself. Keep cool and enjoy!

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White Sangria

1 red apple

1 green apple

1 peach

1 pear

1 lime

1 cup strawberries or raspberries

3 ounces Chambord

Sugar to taste—I used 3 tablespoons dissolved in just a bit of warm water

1 bottle white wine

Lemon-lime soda to serve

Slice fruit and combine in a pitcher. Add Chambord and sugar. Pour bottle of wine in and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 1-3 hours (overnight is ideal). To serve, scoop fruit into glasses, pour Sangria over top, and finish with soda. Kick back on your lawn chair and enjoy.

—Nicole

Take your sangria al fresco with our favorite no-shatter glasses from Govino.

A Crab Cake Fries in Brooklyn: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food—from colorful veggies and delicious smoothies to festive cookies and fun cocktails. That’s why we’ve enlisted our in-house kitchen geek Nicole to share her cooking tips every week: seasonal ingredients, nifty tools, and must-try recipes. 

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It’s summer, which means tons of weddings, travel, and wedding-related travel. A nuptial-bound excursion landed me in Baltimore, MD , where I had a lifechanging (seriously!) breakfast. It was there that I realized that the gloppy messes I’ve been calling crab cakes do not compare in the slightest to the real thing.

Baltimore is famous for its crab cakes, thanks to its close proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and fastidious adherence to a few rules: just enough mayo to bind, plenty of fresh-as-can-be crab, and a nice crispy exterior. Rejoice!

But now that I know about them, I’m obsessed. Since, I can’t gallivant to Maryland every time I get a hankering, I used the Birchbox Test Kitchen as an excuse to recreate them. Spoiler: It worked!

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I chose a basic Food & Wine recipe from Andrew Zimmern. This version won out because a) Mr. Zimmern got it from a Baltimore local, v) it’s highly rated, and c) it has relatively few ingredients.

A word on crab: I opted for packaged crab that was on ice at my local fish market (rather than canned and preserved kind). Obviously fresh is best if you can swing it.

There are some strong feelings about Old Bay Seasoning among crab cake aficionados, and the lack of this was the biggest complaint about Zimmern’s recipe. I didn’t have Old Bay handy, so tried my first batch without it. While the results were delicious, I’ll definitely be adding it on the next go-around.

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Many commenters were passionate about adding other ingredients like garlic, sweet onions, or red bell peppers. I like to showcase the main ingredient, rather than crowd the plate with too much activity, so I kept it simple. I also limited the mayo to about a half-cup (or less) per pound of crab meat.

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Finally, make sure to get your pan good and hot before searing the cakes—this will give you a nice, golden brown crust. This recipe is a snap to make, and I have a suspicion that adding the Old Bay will take it to the next level. Best of all, I don’t have to get on a bus to satisfy my crab cake craving.

—Nicole

Heading on your own summertime travels? Try these easy-peasy hairstyles at weddings, bbqs, or lazy Sunday brunch runs.

Coffee is For More Than Drinking: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food—from colorful veggies and delicious smoothies to festive cookies and fun cocktails. That’s why we’ve enlisted our in-house kitchen geek Nicole to share her cooking tips every week: seasonal ingredients, nifty tools, and must-try recipes. 

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I’ve been a coffee fiend since my high school days, when I’d consume too many mochas with whipped cream to mention. Now I keep it to the coffee-and-cream-no-sugar variety, but like many people, it’s still a part of my daily ritual. It just recently occurred to me to try coffee for something other than drinking, and while researching I discovered that there is WAY more to these beans than just a morning beverage. (Probably no-duh for some of you, but I was surprised by the long list of other uses!)

Coffee’s been waking people up since at least the fifteenth century in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen—and it’s said to have been waking up goats in Ethiopia long before that.  Today, 54 percent of adults in America consume the caffeinated beverage daily.

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Spring Vegetable Quiche: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food, from colorful (and totally yummy) vegetables to delicious smoothies. Which is why we’ve enlisted our in-house recipe guru Nicole to divulge her kitchen secrets each week, sharing seasonal ingredients, must-have tools, and new cooking methods. 

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It seems like there’s an explosion of veggie options at the farmer’s market this time of year, and each week offers us new fare for our table. This week is no different, and I was delighted to find some spring onions and early asparagus to make a delicious spring quiche. My favorite recipe would also do wonderfully with pungent ramps instead of spring onions—if you’re industrious enough to get to the market early!

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The Great Crawfish Boil: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food, from colorful (and totally yummy) vegetables to delicious smoothies. Which is why we’ve enlisted our in-house recipe guru Nicole to divulge her kitchen secrets each week, sharing seasonal ingredients, must-have tools, and new cooking methods. 

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For those who live in Louisiana, it’s crawfish season, and that means it’s crawfish boil season. It’s time to gather around a table covered in newspaper and food while visiting with family and neighbors to feast on the succulent local specialty. Crawfish are small freshwater crustaceans found in mud that resemble tiny lobsters. They’ve also been known to answer to such names as crayfish, crawdads, and mudbugs. No matter what you call them, they’re loved for their slightly sweet tail meat and the way they bring the community together. Traditionally, crawfish boils accompany special occasions, and there are festivals each year in their name.

It turns out that there are many, many ways to handle and prepare crawfish. I recently visited some New Orleanians and got the scoop from the locals; read below for some tips on hosting your own crawfish boil!

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Why You Should Add Tomatillos to Your Spring Recipe Lineup: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food, from colorful (and totally yummy) vegetables to delicious smoothies. Which is why we’ve enlisted our in-house recipe guru Nicole to divulge her kitchen secrets each week, sharing seasonal ingredients, must-have tools, and new cooking methods. 

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Among the many delicious ingredients that Spring brings, the neatly wrapped tomatillo is my favorite. Not to be confused with its cousin, the green (unripe) tomato, this small-statured fellow comes earlier in the season and grows within a parchment-like husk. When the husk is removed, you’ll find sticky, firm and vibrant green skin. Also called husk tomato, jam berry, or husk cherry, one bite will reveal a delish tart-yet-sweet taste.

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5 Surprising Uses for Jam: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food—from colorful veggies and delicious smoothies to festive cookies and fun cocktails. That’s why we’ve enlisted our in-house kitchen geek Nicole to share her cooking tips every week: seasonal ingredients, nifty tools, and must-try recipes. 

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I’ve had my culinary eye on jam for quite some time. But like many home cooks out there, I typically use it for its tried-and-true purposes—here’s looking at you, PB & J—and haven’t experimented with it as much as I would like. Preserves have long been the honored and traditional accompaniment to baked goods, but what else can you do with them?

The answer is, everything! Sarabeth’s legendary spreadable fruit option is award-winning, pectin-free, and comes in four delicious flavors. But the best part? It recently landed in the Birchbox Home & Food Shop—which gave me the perfect opportunity to gather some recipes up to finally try my hand at crafting delicious dishes using jam and preserves. Here are five fun ways that you can use a spreadable fruit medley at home:

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Catch of the Day: Birchbox Test Kitchen

You miiiight have noticed by now that Birchbox staffers have an ever-so-slight obsession with food—from colorful veggies and delicious smoothies to festive cookies and fun cocktails. That’s why we’ve enlisted our in-house kitchen geek Nicole to share her cooking tips every week: seasonal ingredients, nifty tools, and must-try recipes. 

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My dad and I have a tradition whenever I’m home in Florida. We cook a big fish dinner for my whole family that features the freshest catch. On my last trip, I learned that mahimahi is in abundance off the Florida coast—the options at my local fish market were so fresh from the boat that I could probably have served them as sushi. 

Before we get to the cooking part, a few fun facts: the name “mahi-mahi” translates to “very strong” in Hawaiian. Mahimahi is also commonly known as a dolphin fish, but there is no actual relation to Flipper or his relatives. If you’re concerned about seafood sustainability (which I am), it’s worth noting that since mahimahi is available all over the world and grow quickly, they’re plentiful. 

Back to my family dinner. I started with one of my favorite super-basic recipes from Saveur, kicked up the spice levels, and added a ton of spinach for good measure. In the base recipe, they suggest you leave all of the cherry tomatoes whole, but I like to slice them in half to create a rich sauce. Serve it over couscous for a well-rounded, bright meal. 

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