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Karen Watts (left) and her daughter, Molly Watts (right) look over the latest Rachael Ray cookbook while waiting to meet the celebrity chef at Wegmans Sunday evening.
Cody Foley, 12, photographs Rachael Ray before getting a chance to meet her at the Wegmans book-signing. About 700 tickets were given out.
Celebrity chef Rachael Ray, signing her new cookbook 'My Year in Meals,' waves to a fan at Wegmans.
BY KATIE THISDELL
Rachael Ray's go-to meal on late nights is Aglio e Olio, a simple pasta dish with anchovies, oil and garlic.
With a well-stocked pantry, she can whip up pastas and soups with no advanced preparation--even after the busiest of days, she said this weekend in Fredericksburg.
It's exactly that ease of cooking that has made the Food Network star and cookbook author a household name.
"She's just a real person. She just tells real people how to cook real food that looks good," said fan Beth Seidler, of Stafford.
Ray signed copies of her latest book, "My Year in Meals," for hundreds of fans Sunday at Wegmans in Central Park.
Many credited Ray as their inspiration to get into the kitchen more often and to use new ingredients.
Among them were friends Sharon Babineau and Lesley Moore of Fredericksburg.
"She's like, the biggest fan," Moore said, pointing to Babineau, who stood with a full bag of Ray's books as she waited to meet the celebrity, whose plane had been delayed.
The pair of women, who had a ticket with the letter F to indicate their spot in line, said Ray seems genuine and enthusiastic.
Babineau first heard of Ray when cooking with her mother-in-law years ago. She wondered why she kept putting trash in a bowl on the counter--Babineau learned that's one of the many practical tips Ray shares during her shows, including the popular "30 Minute Meals."
"She's the one that inspired me to branch out," said Babineau, who tried jicama after learning about it from Ray.
The TV personality, who grew up in her family's restaurants but has no formal training, has nearly two dozen cookbooks to her name. She describes "My Year in Meals" as her most memorable.
Flip the book over, and you'll find 100 cocktail recipes from her husband, John Cusimano.
"It's certainly the most personal and the largest book ever, and we've never done anything like this, sharing so much of our family and our home life in a book," Ray, 44, said Sunday.
She points inside the front cover to pictures of hand-written journals--the behind-the-scenes work for the cookbook and part of her longtime daily routine.
"These are all my notebooks. I write every day, all day long," said Ray.
Some may wonder how a best-selling author, who hosts a talk show, has shows on the Food Network, and is the editorial director of a self-named magazine, has time to cook so much.
Ray says being in the kitchen is what she looks forward to.
"I can imagine on a really stressful day, life would be good at her house," said Gina Eland, who flipped through several of Ray's books with her husband and son before the signing.
"I think she's been really good for the next generation, making cooking cool. She made it look easy, she made it look convenient, she made it look fast," Eland said.
Ray worked her charm as fans filed up to the table near Wegmans' upstairs cafe.
"So many pretty girls here tonight, and handsome fellas, awesome!" Ray exclaimed.
Madison Wilhelm, 10, was shaking after meeting the star. With a huge smile, the Stafford girl gave a big "thumbs up" to describe meeting Ray.
"She's a really good cook and she's really pretty," said Madison, who watches Ray's shows all the time and likes to make cookies, hamburgers and pasta.
Ray even signed 12-year-old Brittney Grupe's bright orange cast, which comes off this week.
"Make sure they cut around that!" said mom Michelle Grupe.
Ever the multitasker, Ray answered a reporter's questions while warning one fan that ink may smear on the the front of a magazine and also cooing over smiling babies.
"You're delicious!" Ray cried out, playing with a little girl's tiny feet.
Some shared personal stories, including Air Force Lt. Col. Rosalie Duarte, who handed Ray a five-sided coin with seals of the four U.S. military branches. It's a tradition to give the coin while thanking someone for their support.
During recent deployments, Duarte was sent a set of Rachael Ray's line of pots and pans. "It felt like home," said Duarte, still on active duty. "Just having that ability to span the seas It's a connection to home.
Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975
Why Wegmans? She visited her first store in upstate New York years ago. "I just think they're a remarkable organization--they're wonderful."
On Virginia: "The whole state is friendly, and good eaters."
Where will you eat in Fredericksburg? "I was just going to have room service tonight--we've been going out the last couple nights. And on Sunday I like to watch "Homeland," so I think we'll grab something quick at the hotel."
What's a great holiday gift? "I think it's a wonderful thing to make whatever you make best--lasagna, brownies--and make it in a dish that you don't mind gifting, and then leave the dish as the gift. Who doesn't need a meal or a dessert taken care of for them? And it's a great thing for a whole family."
Do you ever just want a frozen dinner? "I make meals ahead just like on a 'Week in a Day' show, many nights I go home and just turn on the stove. But it's my food. No frozen meals unless it's mine."
She and her husband also eat takeout occasionally--especially pizza and Thai.
Want to make dinner for me? "I wish I could! I'm sort of missing my kitchen because I've been out of it a couple days now."
AGLIO E OLIO
Prep time: 10 minutes
cup EVOO (extra virgin
WHOLE-GRAIN SPICED WAFFLES
Prep time: 10 minutes
teaspoon ground ginger