Swiss Chard and Chicken Sausage Roll-Ups with Peanut Sauce

Why hello there! I know it has been far far too long, but life has unfortunately gotten the best of me these last few weeks. Even so, I miss blogging (A LOT) and was determined to get a post out today. These pictures are practically burning a hole in my camera and they needed to be shared!

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This recipe came about because I was burnt out on spinach. I have been buying large containers of spinach for the past several weeks (months?) and I use spinach in everything. From salads, to smoothies, to sandwiches, to omelets. Spinach is my leafy green of choice.

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But enough is enough! I needed something different. Something to change it up. Enter: Swiss Chard.

Frankly, leafy greens other than spinach and kale kind of scare me. I never know what to do with them and whenever I try to cook them I usually don’t like the result. So I kept these guys raw and just used them as a wrap. Simple enough, right?

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On the inside, I sautéed some chicken sausage, shredded carrots, added raisins and created a peanut sauce made with peanut butter. So simple and SO satisfying. This meal is pretty low calorie considering it’s just vegetables, chicken sausage and a healthy sauce. Yet, it is very satisfying because of all of the healthy fats from the peanut butter and the sweetness from the carrots and raisins. A complete meal if you ask me.

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And then, we have the health boost from the Swiss Chard. Let’s talk about that for a second. I usually don’t dive deep into the nutrients of a food I’m eating. I know that, generally, leafy greens are packed with nutrients. But this time, I decided to do a little research.

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Benefits of Swiss Chard:

  • Extremely low in calories
  • 13 antioxidants
  • Regulates blood sugar
  • One phytonutrient in particular called Betalain is a strong antioxidant and helps with detoxification
  • Extremely high in Vitamins K, A and C. Vitamin K helps with strong bones and a sharp brain!
  • Known as a super food to prevent cancer, especially colon cancer
  • High in iron which helps with the health of the circulatory system (your blood)
  • Promotes hair and eye health. Eating a lot of Swiss Chard can possible prevent or delay the onset of age-related eye diseases.

Ok I am convinced!

I know cooking scary leafy greens can be intimidating, but if you are a first timer with Swiss Chard, I’d encourage you to try this recipe. It just tastes like lettuce, I promise.

Enjoy!

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Swiss Chard and Chicken Sausage Roll Ups with Peanut Sauce

  • A few large leafs of Swiss Chard. I used Red Swiss Chard, but you can use any type
  • 1 or 2 chicken sausages, chopped
  • 2 large carrots
  • handful of raisins
  • A couple tablespoons of peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup to a 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 T soy sauce

1. For the Peanut Sauce: in a pan, simply add peanut butter and then add warm water. Stir continuously to combine. Keep adding warm water until you achieve the consistency you want. Add in Soy Sauce and mix in.

2. For the Filling: Sautee chicken sausages and add shredded carrots and raisins.

3. Combine filling and peanut sauce.

4. For the Chard: simply wash the leaves

5. Assemble by adding a couple of scoops of the filling onto a Swiss Chard leaf. Roll it up like a burrito and eat!

 

Fresh Cranberry Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumber

I am obsessed with Farmer’s Markets. I love them. Maybe it is because I am slightly (ok, very) obsessed with vegetables, or maybe it is the friendly people, or maybe just knowing that everything you buy from there is something you can trust.

Near where I live, there is this teeny tiny one-stand market run by this one guy in the summer time. He is the same farmer who taught me last summer to take his corn and eat it straight from the cob, no cooking necessary. He pleaded with me to give it a shot, claiming how truly sweet it was. He was right—now, in the summertime, I only eat my corn straight from the cob.

He sets up his stand a block from my apartment and I was so excited to see him this past weekend for the first time. I was even more excited when I saw these:

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I stopped dead in my tracks. Have you seen anything grown from the earth so gorgeous??

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“What are these? What do I do with these??”, I asked him. He told me they are Cranberry Beans and he peeled one open so that I could take a look.

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Sold! Sold to the girl in the sweaty gym clothes. I took these home and immediately started looking up recipes which included Cranberry Beans. I had never heard of these or seen these before, but I quickly learned that cooking fresh beans only takes about twenty minutes and can be cooked just like any other bean.

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I de-shelled the beans and gave them a quick rinse.

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I then added the beans to a pan, filled it with water, and allowed the water to boil. Once it was boiling, I covered the pan and let them simmer for about 20 minutes. Finito!

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While they were simmering, I chopped up a few tomatoes, 1 large cucumber, and half a red onion. When the beans were done, I added them to the mix:

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For a light dressing, I mixed up 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon, and 1 heaping teaspoon of oregano.

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This made a huge batch (pictured above is only about 1/3) and I have had it to eat all week.

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I’ve used this as a salad topper on top of spinach for a refreshing salad…

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And yesterday, I added a hearty serving of this to brown rice and feta for a portable lunch for work.

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I hope you enjoy this, or any variation of this, as a side dish, a main dish, or just something healthy to snack on throughout the week!

Fresh Cranberry Bean Salad with Tomatoes and Cucumber

  • Fresh Cranberry Beans (I used about 25 beans). If you can’t find cranberry beans, you can pick up any variety of beans at your grocery store. Fresh or canned will work.
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 heaping t oregano

1. If using fresh beans, de-shell the beans and give the beans a rinse.

2. Add beans to pan, cover with about two inches of water. Bring to boil, then allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender but not mealy.

3. Meanwhile, chop vegetables and onion.

4. Add beans to veggies.

5. For the dressing, combine bottom three ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together and then spread over salad. Toss.

Mediterranean Chicken with Tomatoes, Artichokes and Olives

Good morning!

I hope you all had a great weekend. I’m excited to share a few great recipes with you this week. Yesterday, my creative juices were flowing and I was able to finally get in the kitchen and cook!

Last night, we had a potluck dinner for my friend, Ken’s, 26th birthday. 11 of us gathered at my apartment and we each contributed a dish. Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potato Fries, Homemade Mac & Cheese, Walnut/Goat Cheese Salad, Bakery cookies and plenty of appetizers filled my little studio apartment.

My contribution was the Mediterranean chicken. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted to do, googled several recipes and formulated my idea.

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This recipe is so simple and is virtually a one pan meal for a large group or family. I pan seared each piece of chicken first in a skillet for literally 1 minute so that they were crispy, but I don’t think that was even necessary. Some of the recipes I read said to do that first, but I don’t totally understand the point of it.

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I then placed all of the chicken breasts in a large pan, topped it with a can of Italian-flavored plum tomatoes, two cans of quartered artichoke hearts, and a can of black olives which I chopped in half. Finally, a sprinkle of feta on top.

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Popped into a 350 oven for 30 minutes and voila:

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I will absolutely be making this again. The chicken came out so tender because it was baked slowly in a liquid, and the flavors all came together perfectly. Not to mention that this is extremely healthy. Chicken, veggies, and a little cheese. And that’s it!

Happy Birthday again to my friend Ken… hopefully this next year is a good as the last 🙂

Mediterranean Chicken with Tomatoes, Artichokes and Olives

(serves 10-11)

  • 1 chicken breast per person you want to feed. What you see above is 11 thin sliced chicken breasts
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts, quartered
  • 1 large can of Italian style tomatoes. I used plum, but any kind will work. Keep the juices.
  • 1 can black olives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 T olive oil
  • S&P
  • dash of oregano

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spread olive oil on bottom of pan, and lay chicken on top of it. Season chicken with S&P and oregano

3. On top of chicken, add the artichokes, tomatoes, and olives. Top with feta.

4. Bake in oven for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Corn and Tomatoes

What a week! I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t handle stress that well. The good thing is that it takes a lot to stress me out, but when I do get stressed I realllly stress. So last night I knew I needed a night to totally disconnect and hang out with myself.

I was in CT for work yesterday, so after a long commute home, I stepped off the train and into the gorgeous weather that we are currently enjoying in NY. A smile immediately found its way on my face. Nice weather gets me every time.

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So does ice cream. On my stroll home I stopped in to Tasti D-Lite. I kept it classic with a vanilla cone with chocolate sprinkles. Licked like a little kid. There’s something about getting ice cream on a cone that is fun. Note to self: eat ice cream on a cone more often.

I came home and finally sat on my couch for the first time all week.
Ahhhh. I turned on my DVR, which was in major need of some attention, and an hour or so later, created this:

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Eggs with corn, tomatoes and a laughing cow cheese. Easy, simple, healthy and satisfying. Paired with an Ezekiel Sprouted Grain English muffin with almond butter and strawberry jelly. Perfect food alongside the Bachelorette and Glee Project. Yea I’m a huge TV dork. Whatever. I’m rooting for Nellie on the Glee Project just in case you wanted to know. I kind of love her and think she’d make a really interesting character on Glee.

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I unplugged last night. I let myself relax. I let my brain shut off. I indulged in the drama of TV characters instead of thinking about my own. It was needed. Today, I have my skip back in my step. I’d call last night a success!

Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Corn and Tomatoes

  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 ear of corn on the cob
  • 1/2 large tomato
  • 1 laughing cow cheese
  • 1 t butter (I used Earth Balance) or cooking spray
  • Pepper

1. Spray a small skillet or coat with teaspoon of butter.

2. Mix egg and egg whites in a bowl, add in a tablespoon of water if you’d like.

3. Slowly cook the eggs over low heat. Add the corn straight from the cob (no pre-cooking of the corn necessary), add chopped tomato.

4. Once the eggs are pretty well cooked, add wedge of cheese. Season with pepper.

How was your week? How do you relax when you are feeling overwhelmed?

WILD HARVEST Recipe Contest: Banana Peanut Butter & Granola Breakfast Bars

Good morning! Today I am really excited to share this recipe with you.  A few weeks ago, when I signed up to attend the Healthy Living Summit, I also signed up to receive a package of 10 items from WILD HARVEST, one of the sponsors of the HLS. They are hosting a breakfast recipe contest, and this will be my first recipe contest ever. I was really psyched when I received my box of goodies to cook with in the mail:

I received Cherry Vanilla Granola, Animal Crackers, Peanut Butter, Raisins, Salsa, Black Beans, Applesauce, Ginger and Cayenne Pepper. Thanks WILD HARVEST! My mission was to use at least three ingredients to create a tasty breakfast item.

In keeping in line with the way that I cook, I knew that I wanted to keep it healthy but also very simple. My mind started turning and after a few days, I landed on the idea of creating on-the-go breakfast bars. I am an on-the-go kind of girl, living in NYC and balancing a busy schedule, as I know many of my readers are. Therefore, breakfast bars seemed like the perfect idea.

I decided to use four WILD HARVEST ingredients: Applesauce, Cherry Vanilla Granola, Peanut Butter and Raisins. I used a banana bread base and added in greek yogurt for some protein. This needed to be a breakfast bar that covered all of its bases, protein and all. I also challenged myself to not use any sugar. I typically do not like starting my day off on a sugary foot, so I wanted to make sure my creation stayed in line with that.

I started by mixing all of the ingredients together. All of them in one big bowl. I know that proper baking probably says to mix the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients, but I just do it all together 🙂 One less bowl to clean!

Once my base was created, I spread it into a greased baking pan, heated up the peanut butter so that it was melty, and drizzled it on top. Followed by the granola:

Baked for about 30 minutes, and this was my product:

I immediately dug in, eager to try it out. I added a bit of greek yogurt to mine to round it out as a complete breakfast:

I am really excited about these bars. I carried them around in my purse for a couple of weeks and fed them to anybody who would try them. They were a hit, and I personally loved having them in my purse as a go-to snack at any time. I ended up making a second batch the next day, and now have about 20 of these bars individually wrapped in my freezer.

These are extremely healthy. They have no sugar. They have hardly any oil. They even have protein. They are completely whole wheat. They have fruit in them. Ok, I’ll stop. Just know they are healthy 🙂

I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. They are a perfect way to kick off your day with a healthy and satisfying bite. They are also useful as snack bars, when you are running around and want to have something homemade and filling on-the-go.

Banana Peanut Butter & Granola Breakfast Bars:

(makes 12-15 bars, depending on size)

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4  very very ripe bananas
  • 1 cup WILD HARVEST applesauce
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup WILD HARVEST cherry vanilla granola
  • 3/4 cup WILD HARVEST raisins
  • 1/4 cup WILD HARVEST peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/8 cup oil (I used Olive Oil because it’s all I had on hand)
  • 1/8 cup real maple syrup
  • t baking soda
  • Dashes of cinnamon and salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mix all ingredients together EXCEPT for peanut butter and granola.

3. Spread mixture into a greased baking pan.

4. Heat peanut butter in a small bowl in the microwave for about 30 seconds until it has melted. Drizzle on top of the mixture.

5. Add granola on top. Press it gently into your mixture so that it is slightly lodged into it.

6. Bake for about 30 minutes, but all ovens are different. My oven is temperamental, so just keep checking on your bars. Once you start smelling them in your home, check frequently. Stick a knife in them to make sure that they are cooked through and no longer wet on the inside. When I took mine out, they were still incredibly moist on the inside. This doesn’t mean they aren’t cooked through; they are just very moist. Allow to cool and enjoy!

*Please note that I received these free products from SUPERVALU INC. for the purpose of this contest and a blog entry.

On Cheesiness: Annie’s Mac & Cheese

This is a guest post from my friend, Marc, who has a creative side waiting to come out. He had an itch to write about a particular relationship in his life and I thought my blog would be the perfect forum for him. Enjoy!

Whether I like it or not, Annie’s Mac and Cheese is very much a metaphor that encapsulates my current state of affairs.  To start from not-quite-the-beginning, I would characterize myself as a “momma’s boy”.  At the very least, I am someone who was reliant on his mother during his formative years.  As you might be able to guess due to the subject matter of this blog, I am speaking of course in terms of food.  Hoping that she will never read this, I will admit to you all that my mother is not a world-famous chef.  Nor was she a well-regarded chef within the walls of my childhood home.  As a quick aside, I once ate actual dog food to get out of eating her homemade mac & cheese.  But she was a cook.  She was the cook.  But as I grew older, I was forced to add the term “self-reliance” to my vernacular, and I suddenly had the daunting task of feeding myself.

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There I stood in front of the stove, thirteen years old, paralyzed by fear and entombed in my own ineptitude.  Would I starve?  Should I call child protective services?  Is this…legal?  The knobs on the stove were Chinese to me and the copious buttons Greek.  The modern-day rite of passage had finally come, and I was unsure that I had the tools to endure.

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Not to spoil the ending, but I survived and did not wither away on the cold linoleum floor of my kitchen.  For many years, when I was tasked with the task to end all tasks (cooking for myself), I relied on items found in the frozen food aisle.  I was the Emeril Lagasse of chicken nuggets and the Gordon Ramsay of pizza bagels.  Luckily for my cholesterol level and waistline, these tragic moments of self-reliance were generally relegated to weekends.  I soldiered on throughout high school, adding new meals to my repertoire such as fish sticks and tater tots.  I was the king of frozen breadcrumbs, and there was no stopping me now.  Until college that is.  Forced out of the nest and into Wake Forest University, one might think that I happily plugged in my eggbeaters and turned that knob to 11.  In reality though, college was a regression of my already sparse skills.  Freshman year I dined at the food hall and at campus delights such as Pizza Hut and Chick-fil-A (How I miss thee!).  Once I had my own car on campus, I was able to feast at many of Winston-Salem’s finer establishments such as Cook-Out, Jimmy John’s, and Mellow Mushroom.  I will never disparage the quality or the availability of cuisine at Wake Forest, but I will say that it did little for my desire to cook.

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Caps are tossed in the air, flashbulbs go off, and suddenly I am a college graduate.  I am an adult.  At least that is what they tell me.  With my diploma framed on the wall and my parents across the country in the mountains of Colorado, I stand in front of my big city apartment stove with not so much a desire to learn but an obligation.  With a daunting rent payment every month, I could no longer afford to rely on the cooking of others at all times.

And that’s when I met her.

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My sister introduced the two of us, urging me to expand my horizons and meet someone new.  Annie and I have spent the past few years together and it has been nothing short of magical.  She taught me how to boil water, to stir a pot, to mix ingredients — prime elements that would lay the foundation for my future in the kitchen.   My dog food days were over and I had rediscovered my love for mac & cheese.

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“Garth, my sister’s puggle, keenly interested in my meal.”

I use Annie’s mac & cheese and my life in the kitchen as a not so subtle metaphor for the entirety of my current existence.  I like to believe that I am on the right path, standing at the precipice of greatness.  At 25 years old, I am not quite yet freaking out about my lack of cooking skills or where I am at in my professional career.  Annie’s has shown me that I can do more than preheat an oven and place items on a cookie sheet.  She has dared me to be great, to approach the world as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as her mascot.  I have torn open the purple and yellow Pandora’s Box and there’s no turning back now.  Also, I love you Mom.

What meals first inspired you to try more and branch out in the kitchen?

Spiced Tilapia Salad with Avocado Toast

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The tagline on my blog “Creating Tasty Concoctions in a Pocket Sized Kitchen” speaks to the fact that more often than not, my food comes to fruition in the form of a random concoction. Maybe it’s a lack of time, or maybe it’s laziness, but I like to just throw things together that sound good in the moment. What results is often times a very random meal, and people around me laughing and commenting on these seemingly strange “concoctions”.

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However, they are almost always really darn good.

This dinner resembles a concoction. Random things, thrown together to create a balanced and satisfying meal. When coming up with concoctions, I like to think generally about what I am in the food for. Something heavy, or something light. Something veggie based, or something carb based. Those thoughts are my starting point. I also take into account some basic nutrition. I know myself and I know I am rarely ever satisfied without carbs and fat in my meal. I am CRANKY without carbs. I warned you. I also tend to stay full for longer with a form of protein.

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Then I just kind of start cooking. Ideas come to me and I go with it. It also helps to read food blogs because I get inspiration all day long. For instance, avocado toast. That is an idea I may never have thought of, but I read about other people eating it and it has become a snack or side to many of my meals. Warm toast with mashed up ripe avocado is an absolute winning combination.

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With salads, I have to really be in the mood for them. This hot summer night warranted a salad with crunchy spinach, cucumbers, and fresh corn on the cob. I learned a little secret about corn on the cob last summer. A guy at a farmers market pleaded with me to please try his corn raw, uncooked. So I did. Man oh man, when corn is in season, eating it fresh is all you need. No cooking necessary, just slice it off the cob and add it to your salad or whatever you are cooking. Or just eat it off the cob. It is so so sweet!

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The tilapia was cooked in a frying pan with a little olive oil and tons of smoked paprika. Flip it after a few minutes, and just let it cook until it’s white all the way through. Add it to whatever vegetables you have. I also topped my salad with ricotta. I mixed some ricotta with balsamic vinegar and mustard to make a dressing, and then added a dollop of ricotta on top as well. I know, random, but it is a concoction, right?

I hope that this simple meal inspires some sort of concoction in your own kitchen 🙂

On Family Time: A Day in the City with Grandma

My grandma is a very special lady. She is actually the only one of my grandparents who is still alive. She is one of the strongest women I know, she is filled with love, and so young at heart. I’ve learned a lot from my grandma: how to live in the moment, how to give people my undivided attention,  how to laugh and not take life so seriously all the time, and how to wait for a man who makes my heart “pitter-pat”.

My grandma values time with her family above anything else. So lately, since my siblings and I are all in NYC, she has been making trips in to the city to spend days with us. Yesterday, we took her to B Cafe on the Upper East Side for one of the best brunches I have had in New York. The food was SO fresh and delicious.

B Cafe is a Belgian Restaurant, so they had several egg dishes, Croque Madame and Monsieurs,  in additional to a classic Belgian waffle. We were all feelin’ the eggs yesterday. I ordered an egg white omelet with smoked salmon, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus and gruyere. Salad on the side. Obviously, coffee on the side too.

My sister had the Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon:

And the lady of the hour had the Norwegian Salad with smoked salmon and a poached egg. My grandma loves her poached eggs!

Ladies who brunch:

Afterwards, we walked a few blocks over to the Whitney Museum. My grandma has been wanting to go to this museum for a while. Unfortunately, my Grandma was not a huge fan of it by the end of the day. It was all American Art, and although I thought certain exhibits were really interesting and made me think, my Grandma felt “uninspired”

They had one exhibit all about opinions including those surrounding politics, love, war, and just general expression. It was the only floor where we were allowed to take photos, so I captured a few. I actually really liked this. It made me think about all of the ways we express ourselves, various political movements, and how far we have come as a country in some areas.

The coolest part of our experience, and the one thing that redeemed the visit for my grandma, was an exhibit called “Fireflies on the Water”. There is a room with windows all around it decorated with hanging lights, meant to resemble fireflies. You walk in individually for exactly 1 minute, stand on a small platform, and are completely enclosed by mirrors and water on the ground. My sister snuck in a camera and was able to get an incredible picture:

Pretty cool, huh? My grandma thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread. She loved it.

We then headed to the park and did some walking, grabbed a cold drink and then parted ways.

Next time, we said we want to do a tour of Grand Central. That whole place is just one big mystery to me. Until next time, Grandma!