Here, she makes party planning simple. EASIEST DIY INGREDIENT For richer-tasUng desserts, use homemade vanilla extract. “I love the way it smells! You take about 20 vanilla beans and pour vodka over them, then let the concoction sit for three months before using it. Keep adding vodka or more beans as needed to taste. I’ve had a batch going for 25 years.”

DINNER PARTY GEOMETRY “Identify the two most talkative people at the party and seat them across from each other at the center of the table. If you put them at the ends, the group will break into two. In the middle, they will keep the energy of the party at the center.”

RICK BAYLESS | Mexican maestro

Born to a family of Oklahoma barbecuers, this chile-loving chef owns award-winning restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago.

SAUCIEST BOTTLED HOT SAUCE “Even though we produce our own line of hot sauce, I have to admit that I love the traditional Mexican flavor of the Tamazula brand.”

BEST WAY TO HEAT TORTILLAS “Wrap them in a slightly damp cloth and microwave in a lidded casserole dish for four minutes on half power. Let them stand in the microwave for five more minutes so they’ll absorb the moisture.”

JACQUES PEPIN | French Favorite

Pepin has an affable, no-nonsense approach, just like his former partner, Julia Child. On Fast Food My Way, he shows how easy it is to make great meals any night of the week.

NIGHTTIME NIBBLES “If I’m not so hungry, I love a bar of dark chocolate. If I’m hungry, I’ll eat pate, dry sausage, or cheese.”

EASIEST ELEGANT ENTREE “Roast chicken. Put a whole chicken in the oven for an hour at 400 degrees with salt, pepper, and garlic, adding five tablespoons of water to the drippings as it cooks. You can expand on this, but I like to start with things that are simple.”

MICHEL NISCHAN | Organic guru

The author of Taste Pure and Simple is on a mission to turn us all on to healthy, seasonal, organic food.

FAVORITE SPRING VEGGIES

“Oh, there are so many! Sugar snap peas, English peas, snow peas, baby beets, turnips, radishes, arugula, early spinach, and fiddlehead ferns.”

GADGET THAT PACKS A REAL PUNCH

“Everybody should have a George Foreman or panini grill. I love them because they’re helping people cook fresh, healthy food. Marinate a boneless chicken breast or pork loin in olive oil, garlic, and rosemary. Before you grill the meat, put garlic cloves at the top of the grill and close the lid so the roasting garlic weeps onto the plates. You’ll never use your microwave again!”

COCONUT CUPCAKES

“When someone stops me on the street and says, ‘You know what I love in your store?’ I know the answer is probably going to be these cupcakes. People are devoted to them. I’m not sure if it’s the cupcake or the icing, but the combination is heavenly.”–Ina Garten

Prep 40 minutes plus cooling

Bake about 25 minutes

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter

  (1 1/2 sticks), softened

6 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

1 bag (14 ounces) sweetened

  flaked coconut (5 1/3 cups)

cream cheese icing

2 packages (8 ounces each)

  cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup unsalted butter

  (1 1/2 sticks), softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 1/2 pounds confectioners’

  sugar (about 5 2/3 cups),

  sifted

  1. Preheat oven to 325[degrees]F.

Line 24 standard muffin-pan

cups with fluted paper liners.

On waxed paper, combine

flour, baking powder, baking

soda, and salt.

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