I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

Cruising into a new year

We've all seen those t-shirts in the tacky souvenir shops at the beach that say, "My parents went to the beach and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." And scarily enough, I've seen people actually wearing them. Well, my parents went on a cruise and all I got was this fabulous cookbook.

While most people their age are home passing the time by gardening, tinkering in the garage, or even putting a pencil to paper to figure out how to live more frugally so they can be sure to leave a hefty inheritance to their only and well-deserving daughter (are you reading, Mother?), my parents are emailing me pictures like this......

or this.......

And when people ask, "How are your parents doing? Is their health good? Do they still drive?" I meet their it's a pity to see your parents get older isn't it? expression with something like, "Oh, yeah...they're in Russia right now," or "Well, they're having a hard time deciding whether to go to China on their next vacation or to Hawaii again." Yeah, it's a pity.

Gone are the days when my parents laid awake at night worrying about how much longer I would stay out with friends and break curfew....wondering if my grades were good enough to get into college....wondering if I'd grow into a respectable woman with a good job, husband, 2.2 kids and a dog contained behind a white picket fence.* Now it's me who lays awake wondering why do they not suffer from empty-nest syndrome? Do they not miss me? How can they in good conscience spend my inheritance on lavish food and fruity drinks while lounging on the Lido deck???

*Sigh* Not that I'm bitter or anything. I think it's great. Really, I do. So, while I wait for my next email to arrive with pictures from Destination Unknown, I'll share some of these fabulous recipes with you and we, too, shall live like a happy and carefree couple cooling their heels in the sand and trying to decide if they'll have dinner in the main dining room or just order room service and lounge in their quarters while wearing a fuzzy bathrobe.

If you'd like to make sure my folks are spending my inheritance well, click here and just try to keep up with them.

*They still worry about this.

Mango-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Cumin & Cilantro
Serves: 4
A Taste of Elegance Cookbook (Holland America Cruise Line)

4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on or off as desired
1/4 cup finely minced cilantro or flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 pure olive oil
1/2 cup plain yogurt (whole milk or lowfat)
1 mango, halved, pitted, peeled & sliced
4 sprigs cilantro, for garnish

Insert a small, sharp knife into 1 side of each chicken breast, keeping the opening you make no bigger than 1-1/2 inches long as you move the knife in an arc to create a large pocket along the length of the hicken breast (go only 2/3 or 3/4 down its length so you don't break through the surface at the thinner end). Place in a glass or enamel bowl or square, glass baking dish.

In a food processor, combine the cilantro, garlic, cumin, salt, cayenne, and lemon juice. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil through the feed tube until the mixture is blended. Add the yogurt and quickly pulse once or twice more. Alternatively, create the whole marinade by hand.

Pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken and toss to coat, pushing some of the marinde into the "pockets" as well. Cover and chill for 1 to 6 hours, turning occasionally.

Heat a charcoal grill to medium hot (when you can hold your hand 5" above the rack for 3 to 4 seconds) or preheat a gas grill to high, covered, for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium. Insert slices of mango into the pocket of each chicken breast and seal the openings closed with metal turkey pins or toothpicks.

Grill the chicken on a lightly oiled grill rack, turning occasionally, until just cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes total. Alternatively, broil the chicken for 7 minutes on each side or brown the chicken skin-side first in a large pan in butter and olive oil and then bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the pins and serve. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs.

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