Helpful Cooking Suggestion #1

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Read Recipes—just keep them out of the kitchen.

It’s not that I don’t love cookbooks.There’s a stack on my coffee table and another on the floor in my office.(The rest are behind the couch).I love technique manuals, and even keep a food science reference on my nightstand so I can put myself to sleep by learning about chlorophyll or MSG.But I generally try to keep cookbooks out of the kitchen.If I plan to try a new dish, I’ll find a few recipes that interest me and compare them. If there’s some crucial measurement I don’t want to forget, I’ll jot it down on scrap paper and take that to the kitchen.

I started doing this out of laziness—I mean who wants to look up how many eggs to put in when you can just guess?—but it’s turned into a discipline of sorts that I think helps build a good sense for what holds a certain dish together. More often than not, I can cut down on some of the unnecessary salt or butter that so many overly ambitious recipes call for. And if some measurement just doesn’t make sense, it’s usually worth questioning.One discovery I made from reading scores of granola recipes on line (especially in blogs like this) is that there are a lot of internet “scientists” out there, explaining with authority that some step or ingredient or temperature setting is “crucial.” Half the time they’re just wrong.

But here’s the best benefit:If I follow a recipe exactly, then I’m usually dependent on it—whereas if I force myself to reason it out, I can usually remember how I did it even a few weeks later.

Which, of course, seeing as it’s a Saturday morning and my kids are waking up, brings me to the most crucial part of Saturday mornings:

Equal parts flour and milk.A little more than a 1/3 part powdered sugar.About 1 egg for every ¾ cup flour.A bottle cap full of vanilla or almond extract or kirsch. A dash of salt.Whisk the wet into the dry and voila—“Uncle Doug’s pancakes.”

Really they are crepes.Use a hot pan, rubbed with oil, and tip the pan in a slow circular motion to keep the crepes large and thin. When you have the time, it seems to help the batter to let it rest so the bubbles pop.To determine quantities, I usually figure about half an egg per person (for any kind of pancake).Although for 5 this can get a little tricky.

Hmmm.Actually this whole recipe is getting tricky.On second thought, maybe you should skip this point and wait for a more helpful suggestion number 2.Maybe order some granola instead.Somehow I knew I was going to be lousy at writing an advice column.

Someone emailed for ingredients on April’s Got the Blues which I’d promised but forgot to include.Here they are—by memory, no recipe:oats (org), barley (org), sucanat, coconut (org), Zante currents, apricot kernel oil, canola oil (expeller pressed), dried blueberries, ground pecans, sesame seeds (org), sunflower seeds (org), oat bran (org), wheat germ, honey, CA apricots (unsulfured), flax seeds (org), apricot fruit spread (org, fruit-sweetened), walnuts, pecans, vanilla, almond extract, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt.We have exactly 10 bags left, so today’s probably your last chance to order one.