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You can count on these pancakes

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"OK, that's number three for you." As a youngster, my son Andy kept close track of how many pancakes each person around the table would eat. Each time we dipped into the pan in the middle of the table for another pancake, he would announce our count loudly. We were used to this. But when friends joined us for breakfast, Andy's calculations could cause some to blush and others to stop eating.

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Those were the same pancakes I grew up on. Nothing like the traditional buttermilk pancakes, these were thinner than paper and as big around as a Frisbee. My Grandma would stack her Hungarian pancakes high in a cast-iron skillet so that they'd stay warm at the table. We'd grab them with one tine of a fork and carefully transfer them to our plates. It was easy to eat three or more of these light-as-a-feather pancakes.

When my mom made them, she'd always make plenty to be sure there would be some left over. She would roll up the remaining pancakes with a cottage cheese and egg-yolk filling sweetened with sugar and sprinkled with nutmeg. She'd pack the rolled up pancakes in a casserole and bake them, then serve them hot from the oven. I would look forward to those puffy baked roll-ups.

Lucky for me everyone in my own family has always loved Hungarian pancakes as much as I do. But not one of them appreciates eating them the next day filled with sweetened cottage cheese.

Over the years, their dislike of cottage cheese became my personal challenge. I would stir it into hot pasta dishes, pulverize it in the blender to turn it into a dip, and make "shakes" that included cottage cheese and fresh fruit. They never knew they were consuming cottage cheese.

Sometimes I'd make cottage cheese pancakes. Putting all the ingredients into the blender to mix them up resulted in perfectly smooth pancake batter with not a trace of cottage cheese curds.

Ricotta pancakes are a new, more glamorous version of those cottage cheese pancakes I used to make. They're not as thin as the Hungarian pancakes I've been eating all of my life, but they're light and delicious. Mild and slightly sweet, ricotta cheese resembles cottage cheese but has a smoother texture. It's often used in Italian cooking, added to everything from appetizers to desserts. Lots of eggs and a little bit of plain yogurt keep the cakes soft as a feather pillow.

About ¼ cup of batter makes a nice size pancake. I like to make them one at a time in a 10-inch skillet and keep them warm stacked on a plate in an oven set on a very low temperature. If you decide to use an electric griddle, leave plenty of space between each pancake to allow room for spreading.

One batch of batter will make about a dozen pancakes. That means four hungry breakfast eaters can each enjoy three. You can always make more to eat more. Who's counting?

Ricotta Pancakes

6 large eggs

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup low-fat plain yogurt

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

Put all ingredients into blender in the order they are listed - beginning with wet ingredients and ending with dry ingredients. Blend for one minute. Batter will be thin. Heat a medium-sized non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter into hot skillet. The batter will spread, forming a thin pancake. Adjust the heat under the skillet so the underside is nice and brown when the top is full of little bubbles. At that point, the pancake can be flipped. Continue to cook until golden brown. Makes about 12 pancakes.

Serving suggestion: Top pancakes with sliced bananas, a dollop of the creamiest yogurt you can buy and a drizzle of your favorite syrup.

Tip from the cook

--Ricotta Pancake batter can be mixed up the night before. Store the batter tightly covered in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, just heat up the skillet and start cooking pancakes.

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