FOOD & DRINKS
Q: What toppings are on your ideal pizza? -Ashley Caldwell, Altoona, PA
A: Peppers, onions and hot peppers.
Q: What's your favorite healthy treat? -Alyssa, age 9, New Braunfels, TX
A: Cheese and fruit.
Q: What would be on your ultimate ice cream sundae? Flavors, toppings and all! -Andrea Castaneda, Tlajomulco de Zuniga, Mexico
A: I really don't like sweets. However, my mom and I used to eat the nuts out of maple walnut and butter pecan ice cream at Howard Johnson, where I worked.
Q: My husband was born in Palermo, Sicily. I know you love Italian food, but what's your favorite Sicilian dish? -Karen Speciale, Renton, WA
A: Definitely Sicilian-style swordfish cutlets. And, of course, any kind of pasta!
Q: What's your favorite fondue? -Gale Daley, Snohomish, WA
A: I've never met a fondue I didn't like. Chocolate, cheese -- what's not to love?
Q: What's one of your favorite vegetarian dishes? -Roshnie Maharaj, San Fernando, Trinidad and Tobago
A: Caponata. I eat it hot with pasta, or with polenta or bread as an appetizer.
Q: What's your favorite dish a grandparent cooked for you growing up? -Chris Lewin, Hoquiam, WA
A: My grandfather knew how to make everything, and fortunately he taught my mother. There are too many recipes to think of picking a favorite, but if I had to: stuffed artichokes, with tons of anchovies, bread crumbs and cheese.
Q: I'm a huge fan of your diverse taste in food. What's your favorite soul-food dish? -Nikki Spencer, Tampa
A: Collard greens!
Q: Are you a crunchy or creamy peanut butter girl? -Kelly Emerick, Alpharetta, GA
A: Crunchy. But in a pinch, creamy.
Q: What's your favorite slow-cooked dish? -Kathy Alford, Enid, MS
A: Thanksgiving turkey. My mom, Elsa, does most of the slow-cooking in the family.
Q: What's your go-to comfort food? -Jacquelyn Bowell, Ridgeland, WI
A: I eat anything. I guess pasta is my favorite.
Q: What's your favorite junk food? Tell me about one weak moment in the snack aisle. -Kristin Sizeland, Rochester Hills, MI
A: I didn't grow up with processed food or food coloring or snack cakes or anything like that. But, you know, I eat chips and pizza like everyone else. I just try to eat them in moderation.
Q: What's your fast-food guilty pleasure? -Shana Stringer, Norcross, GA
A: I don't associate guilt with food. Even if I eat a Whopper (no mayo), I enjoy it!
Q: What food makes you happiest? -Michelle Falkenstein, New York City
A: Anything my mother or my husband cooks for me makes me happy.
Q: What's your favorite pizza spot in NYC? -Jennifer Hardat, Island Park, NY
A: There are so many great places! For me, the best delivery is Lombardi's (32 Spring St., firstpizza.com, 212-941-7994). It's the oldest pizzeria in the country!
Q: I live in Texas, where Mexican food is very popular. What's the best Mexican dish you've ever had? -Ann Higins, Dallas
A: The chile relleno at Mexicana Mama (525 Hudson St., New York City, 212-924-4119).
Q: What's your favorite cocktail? -Kim Brzezinski, Plainfield, IL
A: The Moscow Mule. It's vodka, ginger beer, lime juice and ice.
RECIPES & COOKING
Q: What are some of your favorite spices? -Anna Durham, Alta Loma, CA
A: I've never met an herb or spice I didn't like. I'm not picky. I like them all. What I use really depends on the cuisine. If we're talking about Tex-Mex, it's cumin and assorted chili powders. For Italian food, I don't use anything other than fresh herbs and salt and pepper. I think a spice that's getting a lot more use now is smoked sweet paprika; I've seen it at regular grocery stores. I use it in all sorts of meatballs and spice rubs. It's terrific in soups and stews, too.
Q: What are your favorite kitchen gadgets? -Connie Galloway, Converse, TX
A: I'm not a believer in gadgets. One of the first rules of my cookbooks was that the recipes shouldn't require more than a knife, a cutting board and a pot. Later, I included a food processor. I think you need a good knife, a good way to sharpen it, a cutting board, and a good set of pots and pans -- though I certainly like my spoonulas, Lazy Spoon and Lazy Ladle!
Q: What's your all-time favorite recipe for kid cooks like me? -Lily, Age 6, Arvada, CO
A: Pasta, Cheese and Trees My Mama's Way. "Trees" is code for broccoli.
Q: What's your favorite kitchen appliance? -Tatum, Age 10, Ashburn, VA
A: My favorite -- and only -- appliance is a food processor. Other than my knife, cutting board and stove, it's all I need!
Q: What were your top five '80s songs? -James Nelson, Apple Valley, CA
A: Most of my favorite songs that I listened to in the '80s were made in the '70s. I liked "Train in Vain," by The Clash; "Brass in Pocket," by The Pretenders; "Landslide," by Fleetwood Mac; Elvis Costello's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?"; and U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name."
Q: What's your favorite type of movie: action, Western, romantic comedy? -Shane Mayhorn, Franklin, NC
A: I like them all. I'm a movie freak! The Godfather is my favorite, both the original and Part II. Anything with Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn or Jack Black (viva Nacho Libre!) I'll watch 50 times over. I like Westerns, too, like Unforgiven. For romance I go from Casablanca and An Affair to Remember to Remember to When Harry Met Sally and There's Something About Mary.
Q: Who's your favorite old-time actor? -Gina Robert, Waterford, NY
A: Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier and Jimmy Stewart -- though I think they're timeless, not old-time.
Q: Are there any TV shows that you never miss? -Kasee Schewe, Blooming Prairie, MN
A: The HBO shows Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Sopranos are at the top of my rotating list of favorites, plus any and all versions of Law & Order, especially Law & Order: Criminal Intent (this includes all the reruns -- which I could recite every word of by now). I also like those goofy talent shows Last Comic Standing and America's Got Talent.
Q: If you had time to take in a sporting event, what would it be? -Rolanda Ned, Apache Junction, AZ
A: I can't watch enough baseball!
Q: I know you're a big baseball fan. Which ballpark do you like best? -Laura Schmidt, Cincinnati
A: Fenway, of course!
Q: I'm also a Red Sox fan. What's your favorite snack for watching a Sox game? -George Grayson, Warwick, RI
A: A big sausage sandwich is the only way to go!
Q: What's your favorite holiday? -Michelle Ryon, Gettysburg, PA
A: In my family, we celebrate everything except Groundhog Day! I like them all!
Q: What is the best birthday gift you've ever received? -Brittney Kreese, Chandler, AZ
A: My aunt gave me a beautiful painting of my dog Boo standing in the front garden of my cabin.
Q: Who's your favorite writer? -Lori Boe, Gilbert, AZ A: I have many. I guess it's easier to say which genre I like best: thrillers. Since I was little, I've had a thing for cop shows and mysteries. When it comes to books, I love the page-turning quality of thrillers. Le Carré, Turow, Baldacci -- I love them all.
Q: What's your favorite book? -Chrisabelle Cempron, Parsippany, NJ
A: The Casual Observer by Elizabeth Whitson. It's a children's book my mother gave me about a curious girl who travels the world asking lots of questions. That's what I wanted to be when I grew up and that's pretty much what I do -- when I'm not cooking, that is. My favorite cookbooks are those written by Marcella Hazan. She tells it like it is -- much like all the strong Italian women in my family.
Q: What's your favorite way to spend $20? -Cristina Gonzalez, Miami
A: Seriously? On food! That $20 could get me three sacks of groceries from the farmers' market, and some flowers, too!
Q: What was your favorite subject in school? -Jennifer Pirc, Menomonee Falls, WI
A: Art and boys.
Q: Are you crazy about all animals, or just dogs? -Julie Meurett, Ocoee, FL
A: I'm an animal lover in general, but my favorite animal is my dog, Isaboo.
Q: Which Every Day with Rachael Ray cover is your favorite? -Elizabeth Baker, Bronson, MI
A: I love the February 2007 cover, with me in pajamas!