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Entertaining at Home
New Year's Eve Romance for Two
To keep it romantic this year, consider forgoing the big hoopla. Cook together; the chance to reconnect should be on every couple's New Year's resolutions list.

Plan an elegant, but not labor intensive, menu. Look for steps that could be prepared a day ahead of time, or earlier on New Year's Eve day. Stage an elegant table display. Use lots of candles and sexy colors; black and Kelly green are hot color combinations right now, as is crimson and orange. Play some music - sexy jazz or upbeat reggae are great choices.

The Aphrodisiac New Year's Menu
To Begin
Selection of Fine Cheeses and More
Start with a simple cheese appetizer, as it can be sampled while the final stages of cooking are happening. I suggest Humboldt Fog, Carmody, Drunken Goat, wedge of brie with toasted almonds and honey poured over; fig chutney, and olive tapenade.
Serve with thinly-sliced and grilled Ciabatta bread or other artisan selections.
Best with Moet White Star Champagne with a shot of Stoli Vanilla Vodka added to flute.

The Salad
Honey & Thyme Roasted Pear Salad
field greens, toasted walnuts, crumbled gorgonzola and walnut oil vinaigrette
Best with Riesling wine

The Main Course
Cornish Game Hens with Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing
Roasted Broccoli Crowns with Dijon-Mustard Vinaigrette
Best with Pinot Noir

Dessert
Coconut Chocolate Bread Pudding with Passion Fruit Sauce
Best with Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc

Cornish Game Hens with Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing
A cup wild rice
3 ounces Spanish chorizo sausage, finely diced
3 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tbsp olive oil
A medium Spanish onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
1 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
3 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut into small pieces
A cup finely-chopped fresh cilantro
A cup plain bread crumbs
2 1 A pound Cornish game hens
salt and pepper
rosemary sprig and chopped fresh chives for garnish

Put wild rice in medium saucepan and add two and a half cups cold water and two teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the grains have opened, about one hour. Rice should be soft to the bite. Drain well and put in large bowl.
Sautee the chorizo in a small skillet over medium heat; cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drain on paper towel.

Heat one tablespoon of butter and oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, three to four minutes. Add the garlic and thyme; and cook one minute. Add the stock and chorizo and bring to a simmer. Pour the mixture over the rice; stir to combine. Add goat cheese, cilantro and bread crumbs. You want the mixture wet, but if it appears too wet, add breadcrumbs one tablespoon at a time until mixture holds together, but still moist. Season with salt and pepper. The stuffing can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before stuffing the hens.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse the hens; pat dry with paper towel. Rub each hen with butter and season with salt and pepper, including the cavity. Loosely fill the cavity with one-half cup of stuffing per hen. Tie the legs together with butcher's twine. Place the hens in a roasting pan, breast side up, and roast until the skin is golden brown and the thickest part of the breast meat registers 155 degrees on thermometer, about 45 to 55 minutes.
Remove from oven, and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Remove the twine, then garnish with the chives and rosemary sprig.

Cindy Smith is the owner of RSVP - The Catering Company 291-1155.

Dreamy Dessert
Chocolate Bread Pudding is an incredible addition to your aphrodisiac menu.
Oh So Good Chocolate Bread Pudding
3 cups milk
1 cup half-and-half
A cupsugar
1 8-oz. package semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup Irish whiskey
4 large egg yolks
1 tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1 lb. loaf challah or French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a two-quart baking dish and set aside.

In a six-quart saucepan, combine milk and half-and-half. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Add sugar and chocolate; stir until melted. Bring mixture to a boil, cook one minute. Remove from heat and stir in whiskey.

Beat egg yolks in a small bowl and slowly whisk in one-quarter cup of milk mixture. Whisk egg mixture and remaining milk mixture until well combined and thickened. Stir in butter, vanilla and salt. Fold in bread; spoon pudding into dish. Let soak one hour at room temperature. Bake until knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.

To serve, spoon into bowls; garnish with shaved chocolate and sprinkle with powdered sugar, or whipped cream if desired. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Recipe courtesy of Denise Kane, owner of Babe's Dessert Bar 254-4770.

Toast of the Town
What's New Year's without a little bubbly?
A fine champagne rich in both taste and history is Bollinger R.D. established in 1829. One of the top rated champagnes from France, Bollinger does not ship any champagnes until they are ready to be consumed. In all of the classic 007 films, James Bond is only seen ordering Bollinger R.D. Champagne. Go for a classic! Available at All Corked Up 799-7979.

Don't Forget the Flowers
New Year's floral arrangements should be fun and festive, says Claire Cullen Middleton of Claire's Flowers. Themes range from oversized champagne flute and martini vases filled with gorgeous gatherings of fresh white blooms such as oriental lilies, orchids, roses and hydrangeas. When it comes to romance, choose a silver champagne ice bucket filled with a dozen gorgeous red Ecuadorian roses nestled with two champagne glasses ready for a special evening for two. And don't forget the glitz: "All these arrangements can be dazzled with diamonds, glass disco balls and silver ornaments!," reminds Claire.

Tips courtesy of Claire Cullen Middleton of Claire's Flowers 286-1284.
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