Who Wants a Healthy Cookie?


Fruit thins and milk
Frankly, I think the point of cookies is not to be healthy, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a range of alternatives. After all, sometimes an apple or orange just doesn’t satisfy the way of baked treat can. Still, the trend of marketing snack foods as healthy or good for you just makes me roll my eyes.

So it was with a certain amount of both curiosity and skepticism that I tried Newtons Fruit Thins, Fig and Honey.

Let’s take this from the top down, shall we?

The package touts “made with real fruit” as opposed to what–fake fruit? One would certainly hope that it’s made with fruit as opposed to chemicals, but is it made with either figs or honey?

Turns out: yes. The ingredients list reads:

Unbleached enriched flour*, sugar, whole grain wheat flour, soybean and/or palm oil, rolled oats, dried figs, raisins, honey, salt, baking soda, rice flour, soy lecithin, natural flavor (contains cinnamon).

*I left out the bracketed enriched bits for the sake of clarity.

I also noticed a few other things. While enriched flour is one of those borderline ingredients (why pump vitamins in when they can be achieved through other ingredients goes the argument), sugar, salt and baking soda are all simple, understandable ingredients–the same ones we bake with in our own kitchens. Not too bad, Nabisco, not too bad.

So they seem fairly simple cookies, which I definitely prefer, but they’re still cookies. Emphasizing the words “fruit” and “thins” on the package doesn’t take away from the fact that they are a snack and not a building block of a healthy diet.

But how do they taste?!

At first I couldn’t put my finger on it–the flavor reminded me of something familiar but it wasn’t immediately recognizable. They are crisp–even several weeks after opening the package they were still crisp and not stale–and studded with bits of dried figs and sweet without being too sweet. In fact, the only downside of that first cookie was that the figgy bits were so dense that they can easily get stuck to your teeth. Still, once you’ve encountered the first one you tend to bite more carefully and the problem is avoided.

When Todd got home and I had him taste one, it finally clicked what the scent and flavor reminded us of: oatmeal raisin cookies. Now, we happened to really like oatmeal raisin cookies so this was a good thing.

As tasty as the cookies are on their own–and they are!–I can see these wafer-style cookies being used in a number of sweet and savory sandwiches. Filled with a sweetened boursin cheese or a salt chevre they’d make a nice little afternoon or late-night snack. Maybe even use them for s’mores instead of graham crackers!

Would we buy these over our chosen cookie indulgence, the mighty Oreo? Probably not as a general rule. But if I were looking for something tasty and non-chocolate for a road-trip snack or just wanted something different, Newtons Fruit Thins are a little higher on the list than they would have been.

Have you tried this or any of the other flavors of Newtons Fruit Thins? What did you think?


As part of the FoodBuzz Featured Publisher Program I was sent a free package of the product to try. All opinions are my own.

ICC: Pudachi Wadi


It’s time for another installment of the Indian Cooking Challenge! And this month the authentic recipe I bumble my way through is the traditional Maharastrian Pudachi Wadi (aka Coriander Rolls). Now, for those who don’t know, in the United States coriander refers to the seeds (whole or ground) of the plant we call–in it’s leafy state–cilantro. Since we’re using the leaves, they’d be called Cilantro Rolls in our neck of the woods.

For many years I was not a huge fan of cilantro, and I’m not alone. The flavor was too pronounced, almost soapy in some instances and really was not my cup of tea. But the more worldly one eats, the more one is likely to encounter different flavors and, in time, I became more tolerant of the herb.

Good thing, too! Because these rolls are delicious and it would have been a shame to miss out on them if I’d never been willing to try cilantro again.

Pudachi Wadi
from Archana of Tried & Tested Recipes

Pudachi Wadi


1 cup Gram Flour
1 cup Wheat flour
3/4 tsp Chilli Powder
heaping 1/4 tsp Turmeric
Salt, to taste
4.5 Tbsp warm Oil
Water, as needed


3 tsp Oil
1.5 tsp Garam Masala
3 tsp Tamarind Concentrate

3 Tbsp Shredded Coconut
1.5 Tbsp Poppy Seeds
1.5 Tbsp Sesame Seeds 

1.5 Tnsp Oil
1 Onion, diced
1.5 tsp Ginger-Green Chilli Paste
3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bunches Cilantro, chopped fine (approx. 2 cups)
3/4 tsp Chilli Powder
Half a Lime, juiced
1.5 tsp Sugar
Salt, to taste

Oil, for frying

This one takes a little time, mostly because of the different steps, but it’s worth a few hours on a weekend afternoon to give it a try. A large part of the time required goes into rolling and forming the dough. While it wouldn’t be quite the same, I’m betting the paste and filling would be fabulous inside regular spring roll wrappers and steamed or fried.

I did have to finagle one ingredient: the ginger-green chilli paste. I substituted equal amounts of minced ginger paste and green salsa. Having never had the original, I can’t say how close I came but it seemed a logical substitution. If we’d had any in the house, I probably would have used Recaito, as it’s cilantro-based.

Combining the dough ingredients Make the dough. 

Mix the dry dough ingredients together and then stir in the warm oil. Depending on things like your flour’s water content and the humidity in your kitchen, the amount of water you’ll need to add to the mixture to make a smooth dough will vary. Just mix it in a teaspoon or two at a time until the dough is firm.

Set aside.

The paste ingredients Make the paste. 

Combine the oil, garam masala and tamarind concentrate into a smooth paste and set aside until it’s time to
assemble the pastries.

Toasting the coconut, poppy and sesame seeds Make the filling. 

Toast the coconut, poppy seeds and sesame seeds in a non-stick skillet until the coconut and sesame seeds are golden brown. Allow to cool.

Sauteing the onions, garlic and ginger green chilli paste Meanwhile, saute the onions in the oil until tender. 

Add the ginger-green chilli paste and garlic and saute briefly—just a few seconds–before removing from the heat to cool off a bit.

Grinding the toasted ingredients Process the now-cool coconut, poppy and sesame seeds until coarse. Really all you’re doing is breaking up the coconut as the others are already pretty small to start with.
Combining all the filling ingredients Transfer the onion mixture to a bowl and add the ground and toasted mixture, the chopped cilantro and the rest of the ingredients for the filling. Mix well and season to taste with additional salt as needed.
Rolling out the dough To Assemble the pastries

Divide the dough into 16 even pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Roll each ball into a circle (about 3 inches wide).

Brushing on the paste Brush a bit of the paste onto the center of the dough…
Adding the filling Then place a spoonful of the filling mixture in the center.
Wrapping the filling up Fold the edges of the dough over the filling and press them together to make a tight seal. It may help to add a little water to the edges of the dough.Apparently these rolls can either be round tubes–like a traditional spring roll–or triangles. I did some of each just to see if it made a difference. For what it’s worth, the triangular ones seemed to have a better distribution of dough and filling per bite.
Toasting the pastries Toast each roll or triangle lightly on a griddle. I almost skipped this step but am grateful I didn’t: the toasting firms us the dough so that they don’t fall apart so easily when you fry them. And electric griddle set on 250° worked perfectly for this as I could put one on, roll the next and flip the first when the second was added.
The final fry Deep fry the rolls just before serving. Frying goes quickly and, unlike a lot of fried foods, these do not float to the surface and bob around, they just sit there and cook so you need to turn them over after a few moments to keep them from getting too dark on any one side.

I think you’d also be safe making these up ahead of time through the toasting step and then refrigerating or even freezing them so you can fry as many as you need at any given time. Get a few people in the kitchen with you and bang out several batches at a go so you’re ready for anything. Because they don’t really hold all that great, we found, and reheating doesn’t do much for them once they’re fried.


I enjoyed participating in the monthly Indian Cooking Challenge so much that I created a monthly challenge of my own! For more details, check out the Medieval Cooking Challenge and sign up for the mailing list.

ICC: Suruttai Poli


Another month, another installment of the Indian Cooking Challenge when I gamely attempt a cuisine quite different from my own, usually blunder somewhere along the way but still manage to come up with something tasty. This month’s suggestion came from Nithya and we made Suruttai Poli–a rolled dough with a sweet nut center.

Suruttai Poli

Suruttai Poli

As usual, I had to adjust some of the measurements but this time absolutely no ingredient substitutions were needed. Technically, at least.

Suruttai Poli

For Dough
1.25 c All-Purpose Flour
a pinch Salt
Frying Oil
For Filling
1.25 c Roasted chickpeas
1.25 c Sugar
1.5 tsp Ghee
20 Cashews, chopped
1.5 Tbsp shredded Coconut
1.5 tsp ground Cardamom

Please don’t turn away at the thought of sweet chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). I was a bit skeptical, myself, but it makes an amazing base for the filling. Trust me and try it for yourself. This is also where the not-technically-a-substitution occurs and where my results end up vastly different from the original. More will be revealed.

Making the Dough

Suruttai Poli Dough Combine the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl and mix together. Add water, about a teaspoon or two at a time, and stir until a shaggy dough starts to form. I found the best way to do this was just to stand at the sink with a little trickle of water running and pass the bowl under it periodically as my hand tossed the ingredients together. It prevents over mixing and over-watering. 

Knead it a little bit until it holds together fairly well, form into a ball and let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes. I realized I was almost out of frying oil so had to run to the grocery store so mine sat for closer to an hour. Made no difference than I could tell. If it’s going to be quite some time, though, you may want to cover it just so it doesn’t start to air-dry on you.

Making the Filling
Roasting chickpeas for the filling And here’s where I unintentionally detoured. The original recipe called for Roasted Gram, which is chick peas, but I didn’t want to start with dry so I opted for canned. I drained and rinsed the beans, spread them out on a foil-lined cookie sheet and roasted them in the oven for 20 minutes or so. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
The chickpeas and sugar Then the instructions said to powder together the roasted gram and the sugar. Hmm. Canned chick peas, although roasted, do not powder. They mush. This was fine by me, though, as I’d burnt out the motor on my food processor with the last ICC recipe and had yet to replace it. Mushable gram meant I could go low-tech and bash them around with a rolling pin before adding the sugar. It worked.
Toasting the cashews and coconut Heat the ghee in a small frying pan and add in the cashews and coconut, stirring over medium heat until both are lightly toasted.
The filling ingredients combined Combine the chickpea/sugar mixture with the contents of the frying pan and the cardamom and mix together well. The first thing I thought when it was all put together was Apple Jacks. Todd thought Fruit Loops. Now, I’m betting Big Cereal isn’t using an expensive spice like cardamom in their breakfast formulas, but it made me wonder what chemical combination produced that same aroma.

The filling is done, you can set it aside until needed. Realizing, around this time, that the filling is probably supposed to be more of a dry powder than the paste I ended up with, I put my filling into an pastry bag to make the filling step, ahead, easier to accomplish.

Making the Poli

Rolling out the dough Divide the well-rested dough into 24 equal portions and roll each out to about 4 inches on a floured board, the rounder the better. They will be thin but that’s what you want. Too thick and they will puff like poori and make it tough to finish the dessert. 

Let the rolled dough rest for another 10 minutes while you get everything ready for the final steps. I laid mine on sheets of wax paper (counter space is at a premium) and stacked them 4 to a layer. This worked out okay, though some wanted to stick. It’d probably be best to give them a bit of airing time before covering them up, just to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Frying, Filling and Rolling the Poli

Heat a small amount of oil–maybe an inch, if that–in a small frying pan. Slide a round of dough into the hot oil, give it a second or two to cook then flip and remove. You don’t want them to get crispy or to brown as then you’ll never be able to roll them.

Immediately top the fried dough with “3 spoons” of filling. The 3 spoons makes more sense if your filling is powdered though I really loved my paste filling–I could squeeze it out along one side and go on to the next step without worrying about spilling anything.

Starting from the filling end, roll the dough into a tube, enclosing the filling, and place them seam-side down. You’ve got to work fast or the dough will firm up on you and you’ll end up with shards instead of a cigar-shape. As they cool, the poli will firm up.

Tower of Suruttai Poli

Now, I would never be so bold as to call my accident with the filling an improvement on a traditional recipe that I know nothing else about. However, the filling step was much expedited by the use of the pastry bag (only possible since the filling was a paste) and I’m a bit puzzled how you eat one filled with powder without it becoming like a pixie stick and spewing sugar everywhere.

Because of the speed of finishing them, I think it would be best to have 3 people at that step: one to fry, one to fill, one to roll. That way you can just bang out enough for a party in no time flat.

To see how other ladies (who, ahem, actually know what their doing when it comes to Indian food) made Suruttai Poli, check out the linky over on Spice Your Life.

ICC: Manoharam


After missing out last month due to a crowded schedule, it’s nice to be hanging out with the cooks of the Indian Cooking Challenge again! This month’s recipe is for a sweet treat, Manoharam, which started out very similar to the Kara Sev I made in July but with a finishing twist that makes me think this batch won’t last the week!



I did some liberal rewriting of this particular recipe (shared by Lataji), namely skipping the encouragement to grind your own flour bit–not going to happen at this time. Instead, I did some substitutions based on the Kara Sev recipe and added some spices based on the finished product:

Ingredients for Manoharam


1 c Rice Flour
1/2 c Gram Flour
1 T Ginger
1/2 T Cinnamon
2 t Salt
1 t Nutmeg
1/4 c Olive Oil
1/2 c Water (or as needed)

Adding the oil to the dry Combine dry ingredients and mix until spices are spread out among the flour.

Make a well and pour the olive oil into it. Mix until dough is clumpy and then add water a little at a time until the dough starts to hold together. Knead gently until the dough is smooth.

Divide the dough into 4 parts and roll into balls.

Pressing, frying and draining Heat about 2 quarts of frying oil in a pot or deep fryer to 350-375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oil a murukku press or (as in my case) a potato ricer fitted with a large die and load the first ball of dough into the press.

Press out long strings into the hot oil, using a knife to carefully cut the strings away from the press, if necessary.

Draining and crunching Frying should only take a minute or two, depending on the thickness of your strings. Drain on paper towels until cool.

Place the fried sticks into a gallon-size plastic bag and crush–but don’t pulverize–the sticks. I could be nice and say it looks somewhat like bran cereal about now but it really looks like kitty kibble.

Measure the resulting pieces. I came up with right around 20 oz, dry volume. According to the original instructions, the powdered sugar used in the next step should be approximately a quarter of the volume crumbled murukku.

I call foul, here, as that was nowhere near enough to coat it all. I think the major issue is that while it says volume on one line, it actually goes between grams (weight) and Liters (volume) in another.

Sugar Syrup at hard-ball stage Instead, make a sugar syrup of

2 c Powdered Sugar
5 oz Water

and cook to hard ball stage (250-265 degrees Fahrenheit). Generally you want to stir the mixture while the sugar is dissolving but not stir once it comes to a boil. Washing the sides of the pot as it boils will keep the sugar from collecting on the walls while the syrup comes to temperature.

Manoharam Remove from the heat (carefully–this can do serious damage so no sudden moves and no sloshing!) and carefully pour over the crushed murukku bits.

Oil your hands and, once the mixture is cool enough to handle, form the sticky bits into 1-inch balls.

This may or may not really work, all depending on your sugar mixture and how quickly it cools.

It might not be as pretty, but just breaking up the large brick-o-manoharam works just as well and is still just as tasty!

Before the sugar syrup was applied they were perfectly serviceable snacks on their own–much better than the last batch of Kara Sev which suffered from a lack of flavor. After the sugar, those, these little bits of brittle keep calling us back into the kitchen for continued snacking. As I suspected, it’s similar to pretzel or popcorn balls (though obviously without the airiness of the latter) and a nice candy to have around.

ICC: Kara Sev


It’s the 15th of the month so that means it’s time to share another adventure courtesy of the Indian Cooking Challenge! This month we made Kara Sev, another snack food and another round with the fryer. Unlike last month’s Pani Puri which turned into a several-hour ordeal with mixed results, this month was easy as fry–

Kara Sev

Kara Sev

Kara Sev


2.5 cups Gram Flour
1 cup Rice Flour
1 tsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp Salt
1 pinch Baking Soda
5 Tbsp ghee
2 cloves garlic, minced
Water, as needed

My Notes:

*Gram flour is ground chick peas, you should be able to find it in your local organic foods section or you can make your own by drying out canned chick peas and processing in a blender or food processor until smooth

*I increased the chili powder x4 and could have actually gone up more, feel free to spice it up a little more

*I doubled the amount of ghee and could probably use more—you want a breadcrumb-type consistency and for that you need more fat to rub-in

If you’re not familiar with ghee, perhaps you’ve heard of clarified butter? They’re the same thing and if you’ve got unsalted butter, a saucepan and a ladle you’ve no need to hunt it down in a specialty food shop.

Clarifying Butter

Clarifying Butter

Over low heat, slowly melt the butter (for this recipe you’ll need about a stick) until it’s completely liquid. You’ll see a bit of white stuff come to the surface–those are the milk solids and you want to skim those off. The water has sunk to the bottom (in small quantities you have to be careful not to disturb that bottom layer, too) and the pure butter sits in the middle. Ladle off the clarified butter, leaving the water behind, and use as directed.

Now, onto the Sev!

Steps of the Kara Sev

Step-by-Step Kara Sev

1 ) Sift together the dry ingredients. I like to put half the flour(s) into the large sifter, add the seasonings, the finish off with the rest of the flour so that when I sift them together they get more evenly distributed.

2 ) Make a well in the center of the sifted dry ingredients and add the minced garlic and the ghee. Mix together the moist and dry (fingers really work best for this) until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Clumpy ones, sure, but bread crumbs just the same.

3 ) Sprinkle water over the mixture until a dough starts to form. In truth, it was more like shallow handfuls at first, just to get things to hold together, then it tapered off to sprinkles until the dough was fairly solid and no longer sticky.

Let me tell you, at this point the dough smelled fantabulous–the bean flour and the chili powder were activated by the water and if the finished sev smelled this good we were going to be very happy.

4 ) Divide the dough into 4 balls. This is just to keep it manageable.

5 ) Heat canola oil to around 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

6 ) Push the dough through a sev ladle or maker into the hot oil.

Okay, here’s where we reach a bit of a cultural divide–what in the world is a sev maker? Turns out it’s a perforated ladle that you use as a die to create little strings of dough for frying. Not having one of those around I found some pictures of what a sev-maker looked like and they look an awful lot like my potato ricer (that’s it on the left). This is what I used for most of the kara sev (press out strings about 2 inches long then cut off with a knife into the oil–watch for splashing!).

Someone else suggested using  a cookie press and I thought that was an inspired idea. Unfortunately, in the handful of moves since I last used mine, only the tree-die remained with the press. Still, I gave it a shot.

7 ) Fry until just barely colored. The first batch I fried until it was a golden brown and it didn’t have a lot of flavor. Each batch afterwards I fried a little less and the flavor increased. Turns out it only takes a moment or two in the oil for them to cook through so get ’em in, let ’em bubble and get ’em out!

8 ) Drain the finished sticks on a piece of paper toweling.

The batch I tried through the cookie press (don’t forget to spray it with something to prevent sticking!) turned out fine, too, in wider strips, but I only did the one batch of those–the ricer worked best.

Todd really enjoyed snacking on these crunchy strings, I would prefer a little more flavor in the finished product so more salt and more chili powder would not go amiss.

Store the drained sev in an airtight container or plastic bag.

I’m still looking for the perfect dip that goes with these (maybe hummus?) since I’m not a huge fan of a lot of dry snacks but these are pretty addicting once you get started on them.