Gift Card Weekend 2017

If you’re like us, you have a drawer where gift cards go to die.

Enter Gift Card Weekend 2017. The goal: Fight back against the unused gift card epidemic and spend as many as possible in one rainy weekend. The results: There were some wins, some fails and some surprises. Here’s how Gift Card Weekend 2017 went down:


  • Two Mystery Gift Cards to Lunds & Byerly’s: I picked up a few necessities like gelato, fresh flowers and bacon. Gift Card #1 had a $0 balance. Gift card #2 had a $5.00 balance. #GiftCardFail. Bought it all anyway.
  • $25 to Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants: Big Bowl Express inside Lunds & Byerly’s is a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant. I planned to get the Friday Family Dinner deal for $22. The gift card did not work at the register. #GiftCardFail, again! Bought it anyway, again.


We regained some confidence after Mike successfully bought two BBQ sauces with a $10 Kitchen Window gift card. Feeling ambitious, we arrived at the Mall of America with a stack of gift cards in hand and nothing to lose:

  1. $10 to Jamba Juice: Mike got a $5 Mango A-Go Go Smoothie. I detest smoothies. We gave the remaining $5 to the people behind us in line. Gift Card Weekend is about giving, too.
  2. $10.71 to Barnes & Noble: Sam walked out with Dinosaur Dance and the Animal Alphabet
  3. $25 to Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants: We were so excited for crepes at the Magic Pan Crepe Stand and to redeem ourselves from the Friday Lettuce Entertain You gift card fail. At the last moment, I realized we forgot to bring it. We were too excited about crepes. Bought them anyway without the gift card. #GiftCardFail number three.
  4. $100 to Macy’s: I’m way more excited than Sam about his first dress pants, vest and tie for my cousin Avery’s Bat Mitzvah. Only managed to spend $34 at Macy’s, will save the rest for the next Gift Card Weekend…
  5. $50 to Creative Kidstuff: Sam picked out a birthday present for his friend Ross and of course, a car for himself.
  6. $136 to Anthropologie: My most anticipated gift card. Found a new dress. Was feeling pressured to leave by some nameless members of our family who were more than done shopping at this point. Bought the dress. Have since decided the dress isn’t quite right. Taking the dress back.
  7. $100 to D’Amico: Enjoyed some killer braised short ribs, scallops and an amazing Butterscotch Budino at Campiello in Eden Prairie. We blew through the gift card and then some after Mike ordered a glass of 40-year old port. You only live once.


  • $100 to Target: Sam scored again with some new bacon & egg-themed PJs. We used the rest to restock our medicine cabinet and cleaning supplies. Super glamorous lives we lead.

The Bottom Line: Gift card shopping bonanzas aren’t as easy as you’d think. I think we may need to practice our technique again soon…

Until We Eat Again,

Two Happy Cooks

Fired up that Sam is 2!

Look out world, Sam is officially two!

We have a car-obsessed, tantrum-throwing, picky-eating, 5-AM waking, playground-loving two year old on our hands.  We go to bed every night thinking it would be impossible to love him more, but wake up every day to be proven wrong.

We marked the occasion with a visit to Plymouth Fire Station No. 3 to see the firefighters and fire trucks with some of Sam’s friends and family. Firefighter Anne taught us all how to dial 911 and crawl like puppies when there’s a fire. That made Sam’s safety-conscious grandparents very happy. We got to sit inside some fire trucks! That made Sam and his friends very happy. And then we came home and had meatballs from Firehouse Subs. That made Sam’s daddy verrrry happy.

Sam loves to talk about the new car he got for his birthday, and spent at least 3 hours on Saturday playing with his new car transport truck. 

We’ve all grown a lot in the last 2 years. Sam can’t wait to show these terrible twos who’s boss.

Until We Eat Again,

Two Happy Cooks

Unicorn Hamentaschen

My Instagram feed has recently exploded with an array of magical images of Unicorn foods– hot chocolate, cakes, pancakes, you name it. Being a person who a) loves color, b) loves sugar and c) LOVES sprinkles, I’m 100% on board with this ridiculous food trend. I thought to myself last week, what better dessert to embrace the Unicorn craze than the humble Hamentaschen?

​​This is not the Hamentaschen’s first appearance on Two Happy Cooks. As you may recall from our previous Rainbow Hamentaschen post, Purim falls into the Jewish holiday category loosely entitled, “They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat!” Purim is the Jewish version of Halloween, filled with costumes, parties for both kids and hammered Israeli college students, and of course, sweets.

Hamentaschen is the iconic Purim cookie. Its dough is notoriously kind of blah. I felt it needed some unicorn-izing.

I started with this classic buttery dough recipe from Tori Avery. I filled the cookies with different jams (go team apricot) and Nutella. And then the fun part began – the unicorn-izing of the hamentaschen. I bought some microwaveable candy melt, swirled in some food coloring and dipped one side of each hamentaschen. Add a few sprinkles and voila – Unicorn Hamentaschen.

Sam, Mike and I had fun celebrating Purim – holidays seem to be more fun with a kiddo. Sam loved his first bouncey house experience at the Temple Israel Purim carnival. Our friend Hailey even made an appearance in the Star Tribune – check her out on slide 5!

Until We Eat Again,

Two Happy Cooks

Some Like It Hot

Some like it cold, and Some Like It Hot. 

This weekend was legendary – it will go down as that time it hit 60 degrees in February in Minnesota. Mike and his crew  wanted nothing to do with it, having planned a trip to Lake Mille Lacs for Beer Club On Ice. They headed north where it was still cold enough for ice fishing. Between five guys, they brought no fewer than 110 beers to “The Silver Bullet.” For those of you who are concerned, I’m told they didn’t drink them all, and Mike arrived home in one piece. They also caught a 25 inch Walleye – awesome!

Meanwhile, back in civilization, my parents came to visit from Kansas City and we had a near-perfect day. The sun was shining, Sam slept past six and we had some seriously good food. We visited Cecil’s Deli in St. Paul for some pastrami, latkes and general amazingness. I had a house special called “Some Like it Hot” – pastrami and pepper cheese toasted on pumpkernickel bread. It was truly spectacular. We liked it so much we picked up all the ingredients to recreate it at home the next day.

At Cecil’s, my parents also introduced me to something called an Egg Cream, which contains neither eggs nor cream. It’s a special deli drink made with u-bet chocolate sauce, whole milk and club soda. Again, it was such a hit we picked up ingredients to have more egg creams later in the weekend.

Whether you like it cold or hot, hope you had a great weekend too.

Until We Eat Again,

Two Happy Cooks

Hit Me With Your Best Shallot Burger

Last summer while reeling from John Snow’s death, we came across this epic Game of Thrones menu for die-hard fans from Bon Appetit. It was the first of what I now realize is an entire genre of movie and tv-show-inspired cookbooks and menus. This past weekend at Barnes and Noble, we perused Eat Like a Gilmore Girl, True Blood: Eats, Drinks and Bites from Bon Temps, and Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s Cookbook.

This could be the next big thing.

Because we’re extremely cultured, we bought none of these, opting instead for The Bob’s Burgers Burger Cookbook. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Bob’s Burgers is a Simpsons-esque adult cartoon featuring Bob, owner of a local burger joint, and his quirky family. In each episode, the Daily Special is a different fantastically punny burger written on a chalkboard. Some of our favorites include the Poblano Picasso burger, the Girls Just Wanna Have Fennel burger, and the Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Zucchini burger.

An especially creative blogger started The Bob’s Burgers Experiment where he created real burger recipes inspired by each burger name on the show. He collaborated with the writers of the show and a professional chef to publish the cookbook. It’s our family’s new favorite book – even Sam loves looking at the hand-drawn burger diagrams.

On Saturday, we made the Hit Me With Your Best Shallot Burger, and it was a serious work of burger art. It consists of a burger with arugula, sautéed shallots and goat cheese on a toasted brioche bun. It was one of the best things I’ve put in my mouth in a while.

Hopefully this is the first of more burgers and other pop culture-inspired recipes to come… What should we take on next?

Until We Eat Again,

Two Happy Cooks

Bake America Cake Again

Yesterday, millions of people worldwide joined peaceful protests at Women’s Marches in 500 US cities and on all seven continents. Experts are calling it the largest peaceful demonstration in US history.

The magic of social media has allowed me to see my friends and acquaintances in the Twin Cities and around the country with their frickin’ awesome homemade signs participating in the demonstrations. It was powerful and inspiring to see so many amazing people I knew and didn’t know letting their voices be heard.

I didn’t make it to the march in St. Paul, but I was feeling the need to express my support. So, my protest sign comes in the form of this cake. For me, it symbolizes diversity, unity and love, three things that I’m feeling the need to embrace. I brought it to a little NFL playoff gathering today with some of our close friends. I wish I could have given a slice to each person who participated in the marches.

The cake itself is the best classic yellow layer cake I’ve found, appropriately coming from America’s Test Kitchen. This recipe just works – perfect texture, flavor and bakes evenly with no mounds in the middle. I frosted it with an equally simple and impeccable Buttercream Frosting. The heart is made from Nerds ropes.

Speaking of politics and cake, I must share this trivial but poignant story about the cake Trump cut at the inaugural ball. Best use of puns of any article I’ve ever read.

Credit to the Vanilla Bean Blog for the title of this post and one of my favorite hashtags ever.

#LoveTrumpsHate. #BakeAmericaCakeAgain.

Two Happy Cooks


There’s something wonderful about creating from scratch.

My parents came to visit this weekend, and we celebrated 60 years of my amazing dad! Having exhausted most of the attractions in the Twin Cities, we took a daytrip to Faribault to see the Faribault Woolen Mill. This place absolutely blew my mind. They start with raw wool and after 22 steps on 100+ year old equipment, end up with the finest quality wool blanket you can find anywhere. The process is very hands-on and a true craft; pride just oozes out of the employees. As for the blankets and scarves? They make me want to curl up by the fire with hot chocolate and never leave. You better believe I’ll be back to Faribault for the next tent sale.

Accurate depiction of Sam’s experience at the woolen mill.

We embarked on a few scratch cooking projects to make my dad’s 60th birthday celebration extra special. The journey started with Mike’s mom’s incredible gumbo recipe. This is a special recipe where some extra time and work more than pays off. From making a roux to lots of hand chopping and shrimp peeling, it all comes together in the most satisfying gumbo this side of New Orleans.

Our scratch journey continued with a birthday cake for my dad – Coffee Angelfood Cake from the American Cake cookbook. Hearing that angel food cakes from scratch can be difficult, I was this close to using a mix. I’m so glad I didn’t. It’s amazing what can come from a little time, some egg whites and a Kitchenaid mixer. The highlight of this cake was the Coffee Butter frosting – espresso, sugar and butter… I mean, come on.

At the end of the day, I found myself with nine extra egg yolks after making the angel food cake. Facebook to the rescue – my Facebook family gave me so many great ideas of what to do with the yolks. I ended up making lemon curd – why had I never done this before? Plopping fresh lemon curd on my yogurt this weekend felt ultra luxurious.

Scratch can be tough – it takes time and it takes work. It’s not every day that I make time to cook from scratch, but I’m feeling like I should more often. Not only is the result usually better, but the process is beyond satisfying.

Until We Eat Again,

Two Happy Cooks