birchbox test kitchen

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. 

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. 

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!

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. 

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!

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.

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.

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.