Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vacuum's Two U's

Why does "vacuum" have two u's, IN A ROW?  It's a weird word.  But, looking at another double-u word might help our understanding: "continuum".  This totally makes me think of the bad guy we love to hate, and his immortal omnipotent (sort of) race in Star Trek, the Q.  Not to be confused with the "collective", which is Borg.  Anyway.  We actually use a recognizable root of "continuum", so it is easier to see that the last "um" is a suffix to indicate something about word forms.  To quote Matthew Lancey on Quora.com, "Double U was/is fairly common in Latin because of its complex system of word endings to indicate case, gender and so on."

So.  "Continue" (back in Latin spelled "continuare") becomes "continuum" when the verb becomes a noun*, and "vacare" or something like it becomes "vacuus" (adjective?) and "vacuum" (noun?) in Latin.  Etymology Online says that the word is probably a loan-translation from the Greek "kenon" which only slightly resembles "vacare", "vain", or "vacuus" - all of which are attested words in the family tree of "vacuum".  We had the great idea back in the 17th century English speaking world of spelling "vacuus" as "vacuous", which is clearer on the pronunciation and only slightly less obviously Latin.

A lot of sources online (really reliable ones like Yahoo Answers) say that there are two u's because how else would you know to pronounce two different vowel sounds there?  But, um, I don't really think that's how words work.  These people are either gullible, or bluffing the Internet looking for the gullible.

What I really want to know is why there is only one "c".  If there are ever seemingly pointless double consonants in words, it tempts me to double other lletterrs also. ("Embarrass", anyone? There are two doubles, and I spell it wrong the first time, every time.) Just saying.  Though I must say that if the "c" were a "k" like it should be, for some reason I wouldn't feel the need to double it in the same way.  But then, the vowel's pronunciation would bother me.  And if we insist on leaving only one "c" in our English transliteration, could we pronounce the "a" as a long "a" like in "bacon"?  Or maybe we could try "bacoon", "baakon", "bakun", "bacconn"?

*In my life, I am much more tempted to turn nouns into verbs.  I imagine this is historically predominant, also.  Therefore, when I am keeping my tone intentionally casual, I say things like "churching", "small-group-ing", "dishes-ing".  Verbs are a lot more fun, if they have a description built into them.  My preschool-teacher-friend also says that kids initially think much more in pictures than in words, so it is good if we can keep our speech so vividly picturey.

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Chocolate Chip Nut Butter Bites

This is a recipe describing the way I have been experimentally baking these days.  Recipes are not the boss of us; they are tools and guides, and the more we understand about what makes a good dish, the less we have to follow exact measurements and specific ingredients.

I just can't call these cookies.  Because if I call them cookies, people expecting cookies will frown at me, and think I'm a bad baker.  These are healthy(er) things shaped like cookies, with chocolate chips like cookies, but not really cookies.  They are a dessert.  
I told my friend's kids, who sampled these, that I would send their mom the recipe.  I don't particularly expect her to make them, and I don't especially expect any of you to make them either.  As her husband pointed out, they're pretty expensive cookies.  One advantage of them, though, is that they are gluten and dairy free, and with growing numbers of people attempting such dietary restrictions, I thought I'd try them out. 
Process in a food processor for 5-10 minutes, scraping sides occasionally, until it makes a "butter":
3-5 hands-full of almonds and/or cashews and/or peanuts (peanuts will have a stronger flavor) (substitute 1/2 cup total nut butter from a jar if you want... keep extra on hand in case the dough is too soupy)
1 can drained garbanzo beans/chickpeas (Watch for good deals on these, places like Big Lots or HMart or Trader Joes, or get your friends to give you the about-to-expire ones off their pantry shelves...)
1 egg (or egg yolk, particularly if you're short of nut butter, as the whites will make the dough runnier) (The egg is optional, but I think it greatly improves the texture.)
A sprinkle to 1/2 tsp. of baking soda
A sprinkle to 1/2 tsp. of baking powder
A sprinkle to 1/2 tsp. of salt (on the lesser end if the canned beans were salted, or if you are using a nut butter from a jar, which happens to have salt as the ingredient, or if your nuts were salted)
1-2 hands-full brown sugar
A quick pour of vanilla
A drizzle of maple syrup or honey (optional) (I want to try molasses.  Molasses is amazing.  But it will also overtake the other flavors.)
Process these with the nut butter until smooth.  If dough is so soupy that it won't stay in a blob on a cookie sheet, but rather will puddle before it even starts to cook, you need more nut butter.  Another option is to sprinkle some oats in there.  (Apparently there is some debate that I don't understand about oats having gluten or not.  Choose according to your level of intolerance and hype-acceptance.)
2-4 hands-full chocolate chips (Guittard Real Semisweet or some other allergy-friendly brand if you care about dairy free or soy free)
Stir this in by hand.  
Chill dough.  Like, make these before a meal, chill during the meal, and pull it out after you've rinsed the dishes and the table, to bake some up for dessert.
Preheat oven to 350.  Drop small spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet.  Cookies will start at about 1.5 to 2 inches and spread to about 2.5 inches as they bake.  They bake for 15 minutes.  (Other recipes I read said 20-25, but it doesn't improve the texture and it does give the bottoms a kind of weird burned bean taste...)  Nut Butter Bites won't remove from the pan as easily as cookies, because they don't have the same kind of greasy fats as butter or Crisco.  I didn't have much trouble, just know that there will be a little bit of cake-like residue on the pan, like the inside of a used muffin cup liner. 
I think they're best warm.  They're better if 1) you're not expecting a cookie, and 2) you don't think about them being basically hummus with chocolate chips. 
These nut butter bites are good for you, though.  There is protein from the beans and nuts.  Nuts and beans have minerals in them, and vitamins, that we US Americans need and don't get enough of.  And the nuts (not so much peanuts, keep in mind) have those useful kinds of fats that we don't get enough of either. 
Cashews are high in: protein, fiber, B vitamins, Vitamin E, potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, selenium, and zinc.  They have anti-oxidants and monounsaturated-fatty acids (good for your cholesterol). 

Almonds boast about the same list of beneficial nutrients, with less selenium and more calcium. 

Peanuts have a little less health benefits, but they're still present, including protein, iron, B vitamins, and zinc.
Garbanzo beans (or chickpeas) boast protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium.  They are mild phytoestrogens, so they serve to naturally balance estrogen levels in our bodies (against synthetic estrogens from meat and dairy and pharmaceuticals.) 
Maple syrup has zinc.  It's nothing compared to molasses, though, which offers calcium, iron, magnesium, and selenium. 
A lot of these ingredients are good for your digestion, liver and hormones, energy and strength, bone health, skin health, heart health.  But they still have sugar, so don't go too crazy with them! 

To God be all glory.