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Rachael Ray
Rachael Ray / David Yellen / USA WEEKEND
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Top 5 things on Rachael Ray's bucket list and why

1. I want to become fluent in Italian because I’ve been taking lessons every Wednesday for years and I’m just simply not there yet.

2. I want to become a decent percussionist. My husband’s drummer [husband is John Cusimano, a lawyer and musician in the band Cringe] is Saturday Night Live’s drummer [Shawn Pelton], so he’s pretty busy most of the time, he’s a great teacher. I’d still like to master that.

3. I would like to relearn how to roller-skate as well as I did when disco skating was king and I was rocking my Bay City Rollers’ wheels and pom poms, velvet jeans and satin jacket. I’d like to be able to rock those skates the way I did when I was a kid.

4. I would like to run at least a half marathon, just to prove I could do it without dropping dead, without being chased by a gun.

5. I’d love to be a spy, a cop, shoot a gun. I’ve shot guns before but I’d like to be good at it. I’d like to be a chick James Bond.

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With a new cookbook — My Year in Meals — in stores and America’s favorite food holiday around the corner, we took this opportunity to ask Rachael Ray, 44, what some of her favorites are, both in and out of the kitchen.

And of course, we had to get her insider tips for entertaining this holiday season.

Here are juicy excerpts:

Daring palate: “I will eat anything on a bet. I was a kid when How to Eat Fried Worms came out, and I was the kid who would eat the worms. ... I think I’ve tried everything on the planet at least once. I haven’t had blubber, but I’ve had the bugs and the crickets and the crispy maggots on my taco.”

Top chef cookbooks: “I love Marcella Hazan’s cookbooks, and I think it’s because Marcella said something to the effect that ‘Measuring is like putting a cook in a cage.’ I love her attitude. I also remember as a child how much fun I had watching The Galloping Gourmet [with Graham Kerr] and Julia Child. I felt like they were part of our family. They had such a great sense of humor about it. They taught me not to be intimidated by food, that food is supposed to make you happy. [They wrote] my favorite cookbooks and I like seeing their names on my shelves because it reminds me of them, in 3-D.”

Secret talent: “I love to jump out of airplanes. You go from a thrill ride to the most calm, relaxed experience. It’s the two extremes at the same time. After I jump out of airplanes, I feel organized for a few months.”

Must-see TV: “I’m a cop show freak. I watch all of it. I watch marathons, whole days of Law & Order: Criminal Intent or SVU. I’ll sit and watch 10 hours straight. I like all the old ones, too. I have collections of Columbo.”

Word play: “I love playing Boggle on my phone. I play 40 rounds straight if I’m on a book tour driving from one place to another.”

Guilty pleasures: “I try not to mix up too much guilt in my life. Life’s too short. I’m an all-things-in-moderation kind of gal.” [Ray says that includes coffee, wine, pizza and hamburgers.]

Kitchen gadgets: “I am not a toolie. I believe [in] a sharp knife and a big cutting board. A giant cutting board even if you live in a tiny kitchen, you can put it over sink and make more counter space. I’m not a gadget-y gal.”

Thanksgiving staples: “We make the exact same meal every single year — everybody in our family loves the Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and the Apple-Celery-Onion Stuffing — so all of us can just get together and enjoy the day. I don’t think you should pick a stressful holiday to try and impress anyone or make something for the first time or complicated. It’s not about that.”

Book beat: “I just started Jo Nesbo’s The Leopard, the creepiest first chapter I’ve read in a while, yeah, it actually freaked me out; The Devil in White City [Erik Larson]; Spiral [Paul McEuen] The Alienist [Caleb Carr.] When I was a kid, I remember reading that twice in a row cause I thought it was so cool.”

If cooking hadn’t panned out: “Actually we’re working this season on a segment [where] I’m going to go out and try and become all the things I would have been a zoologist or work at a zoo, rock drummer, chanteuse, Even though I know I’m incredibly incompetent at all of them. You’re starting the bar nice and low if people know you’ve never done this before, they don’t expect too much.

Chill out: “In our limited amount of time at home, my husband is in his music studio and I am actually in my kitchen. I really do love to cook that’s what I do to relax. We love to travel and when we travel, we try and rent a house from whatever region we are traveling in, so we can cook whatever region we’re traveling in. That’s actually kind of boring but it’s true.”

Must have for workouts: She runs, does the Stairmaster, elliptical trainer, weight machines and crunches. “I have to have pounding thriving music. I listen to a lot of Foo Fighters; Black Eyed Peas; My husband’s band whenever there working on new stuff; Led Zeppelin mixes that are good.”

Life motto: “You can’t be all things to all people but if you just try and be who you are and keep it real, I don’t think there really isn’t anything you can feel too bad about at the end of the day.”

Stuck on Ziploc: “I use Ziploc [she has a partnership with the brand] for everything. I am a Ziploc freak. I use them as my pastry bag, do all my own prep, to freeze your own vegetables, too. I make double dinners, I get a head and keep those in the freezer.”

Most requested meal from your husband: “My husband’s favorite meal is Carbonara: bacon, egg, spaghetti but I have had to come up with twists on it like Milanese style has saffron scented stock or in the spring we add spring peas, in the fall I add corn to it. I’ve got to reinvent it because he always wants it. I get bored with it. It’s always got bacon, eggs and pecorino but then I try to mix in a little this, a little that to keep it fresh for me.”

Dinner party cheats: “If you’re having a dinner party you can take a lot of help from the stores with the snacks. I like to put out a large cutting board; store bought hummus; mix and match any store bought Tapanese; pour pesto over soft cheese, Greek yogurt dip, cut vegetables. salami, olives; cheeseboards with different preserves. fig, honey, hard and soft cheese. If you’re making the entrée you don’t need to be making all the little snacks.”

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