Rachael Ray defended her empire in a Nightline profile last night that’s now online. As the subject of endless flack for un-cheflike kitchen shortcuts and grating food pet names like “sammies” and “e.v.o.o.,” Ray’s certainly had the last laugh. Her company’s thriving not just in spite of the recession, but maybe thanks to a growing market for money-saving meal tips. The business model fills Ray’s pockets (on a pair of T.J. Maxx pants) with an estimated $18 million a year. Ray made a good case for why her methods fit the current economic climate, Epi-Log opines today. Grub Street readers may be more open to her now, too; her New York Diet last week racked up a slew of warm comments from readers. She even got a recent shout-out in “Page Six” for being a cute “indie-rock groupie.” So you tell us: Is it finally okay to like Rachael Ray?