Kitchen Confessional: Admitting That We Like Rachael Ray

Ah, Rachael Ray: the foodie star who we all love to hate. Or should we really say "...who we hate to love"?

She's chirpy. She makes up words and giggles. When she's coming up on 30 minutes, she piles on the cheese and calls it done.

And yet, as we were sorting though our pile of recipe printouts in an attempt to get organized this week, we were a bit disconcerted to see how many of them were from Rachael Ray. Then realization dawned on us that of all the celebrity recipes that we had collected and saved with best of cooking intentions, we think we've actually made Rachael Ray's recipes more than anyone else's.

We think it's time to admit that we might actually like Rachael Ray.

With her fearless attitude and genuine love of good food, Rachael Ray is great for someone who is just getting to know their way around a kitchen. Her recipes are straight-forward and don't rely on intimidating techniques. She uses ingredients that are readily available at the grocery store and basic equipment that we usually have in our kitchens.

Her recipes are also good for those of us with lives on the go. Though it might take us a little longer than 30 minutes, these no-fuss, efficient meals are easily made on a weeknight. With some exceptions, we think her shortcuts are a reasonable balance between grocery store convenience items and genuine home cooking.

And her recipes really work. Nervous cooks can depend on the results, and then it's an easy step to amp things up with special ingredients or personal touches as we gain confidence in our cooking.

We brought her "Spring Pea-sto with Whole-Wheat Penne" to many potluck dinners this past year, and her "Hungarian Hot Sausage and Lentil Stoup" has been on our regular rotation this winter. We also pack a "Grilled Mushroom Salad Sub" in our carry-on whenever we're flying across country.

Love her or hate her, we think these recipes hold their own. What about you?

(Photo credit: People)