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Best pies in honor of Pi Day

Best pies on Pi Day - Apple Pie
Best pies on Pi Day – Apple Pie

Math was always one of my best subjects in school. It just came naturally to me because I have an analytical mind that seeks reason and meaning.

While other subjects like science, language, art, and geography are flexible to change, there is something to be said about the definitiveness of math. Something comforting in knowing that math has a resolution to it and is not going to change.

Science is always evolving and amending itself. Language will change with the times and cultures. Art is a random hodgepodge of creativity and interpretation. And geography updates itself as societies dictate.

But with math, one plus one will always equal two.

With that said, I have never understood what pi is and how to apply it to my life. It has something to do with the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, but what kind of fun is that?

So, as the world celebrates National Pi Day on March 14 — or, 3.14, the first digits of pi — I’m going to celebrate Pie Day — which was actually January 23, but it’s worth repeating.

Here’s a list of my favorite pies — which I can no longer eat unless there is a gluten-free alternative.

  1. Key Lime
    I was tempted to leave this one off the list because I’m not currently craving it, but it’s very tasty when I’m in the mood for it.
  2. Banana Cream
    I’m hit or miss with this pie just as I am with bananas in general, but when I do feel the craving for it, this is a delicious choice.
  3. Lemon Meringue
    I’m not a huge fan of lemon-flavored things, but this pie has just the right amount of it.
  4. Vanilla Caramel
    Perfect for when you want something tasty yet not over the top.
  5. Turtle
    Some people prefer simplistic desserts without too many ingredients — but I love desserts with lots of flavors and “stuff” in them!
  6. Pecan
    I’m a big fan of pecans and I also like them in my ice cream as well as my pie.
  7. Chocolate Creme / German Chocolate / Chocolate Silk
    I couldn’t figure out which chocolate pie I liked best, so I threw them all together.
  8. Cherry
    I typically don’t like cherry-flavored things because it gives me flashbacks to when I was sick as a child and had cherry cough syrup. But this pie is the exception to the rule.
  9. Boston Cream
    I love custard-filled desserts, and this also finds its way onto my favorite donut list.
  10. Oreo
    One of the best-flavored cookies of all time made into pie format!
  11. Pumpkin
    I love all pumpkin-flavored treats, and what’s best about this is that it is seasonal, thus it becomes better for its timeliness.
  12. Apple
    You’re not American if you don’t like apple pie. In fact, the old saying, “as American as apple pie”, spells out its greatness.

Healthy eating guidelines: Easy tips for good health

Eating a balanced diet and staying in good shape has become such a problem in our society, but if you follow some easy, healthy eating guidelines, it doesn’t have to be a complicated chore.

Fast food, sugary drinks, and salty snacks are some of the worst offenders of healthy eating in our culture. They’re convenient, tasty, and easy to consume. But they also fail to fill you up and provide you with the proper nutrition your body needs.

I’ve long had a problem with eating enough vegetables in my diet. And even though I enjoy fruit, I can’t ever seem to incorporate enough into my daily meals. But healthy eating goes beyond just having enough fruits and vegetables. A balanced diet is something they taught you in grade school, back when life was much simpler than when you became an adult and the real world grabbed a hold of you. Now, our society is constantly rushing and we pay little attention to what we put in our bodies.

So, what healthy eating guidelines can we follow to keep us in good health?

  1. Drink more water
    Drinking water is one of the easiest, most basic guidelines you can follow for good health, and yet it’s one of our biggest problems. Whether we fill our bodies with coffee, soda, juice or other sugary drinks, or we just neglect to keep some water with us throughout the day, we’re not consuming enough water. I like to keep a 24-ounce water bottle with me and make sure I refill it four times a day. Also, try drinking a full glass of water before you eat. It’ll fill you up and help stop you from overeating.
  2. Power of protein
    When I feel my belt getting a little tighter around the waist, the first idea that comes to mind is focusing on the power of protein. Protein is a good source for building muscle, but it also fills you up much quicker than fats and carbs. Whereas too many carbs can make you feel sluggish, eating the right amount of protein can leave you feeling satisfied and still have energy, all the while stopping you from stuffing yourself. Eat a protein bar for a mid-afternoon snack and you’ll notice its effects for a few hours.
  3. Cut down carbs
    One of the most popular methods of dieting and improving your overall health is to limit your carbohydrate intake. Too many carbs in your diet leave your body overwhelmed and unable to burn them off, and then your body stores it as fat. You don’t have to go all gung-ho and completely cut out carbs — in fact, you’re destined to fail that way as you likely will be left cranky and looking for the first candy bar you can get your hands on. But simply switching out a few carb-heavy foods in your diet for some lighter ones will certainly help.
  4. Stop the snacking
    Snacking is one of the biggest problems we face because most of us don’t snack on healthy foods. What happens is we think we feel hungry and want some kind of comfort food to fill our bellies, but then we wind up eating way more of that snack than we should and we “spoil our appetite.” Sometimes when we snack, we take in as many — if not more — calories as a normal meal, and yet we still fully eat our next meal. If you get hungry in between meals, try drinking a glass of water instead. Or, if you absolutely must have a snack, grab one of those 100-calorie packs and eat it very slowly.
  5. Pay attention to portion sizes
    Ask any expert why America has an obesity problem, and portion sizes would be one of the top responses you get. We probably eat one and a half to two times the portion sizes we should at any given meal. Our bodies cannot handle the extra food and it doesn’t burn it off, especially if we live a sedentary lifestyle. You’ve probably heard this tip before, but you should really heed its advice: eat off smaller plates and don’t go back for seconds.
  6. Be in tune with your body
    Much of our eating problems could be solved by paying more attention to our bodies. We eat out of boredom, we eat when we’re sad or depressed, and we eat because it tastes good. All of these are bad ideas. Food should not be a hobby; instead, it should be treated like gasoline for our cars. We mostly fill up our cars when we’re on empty, right? And if we do happen to fill up before we’re empty, we don’t pour a full tank in, right? Because adding a full tank’s worth when we already have half a tank would cause an overflow. Similarly, eating too much when we’re not really “on empty” causes storage of fat. Often when we think we have hunger pangs, it’s really just our mind playing tricks on us.
  7. Eat slower and chew more thoroughly
    Eating too fast has always been one of my biggest problems in the food arena. I see food on my plate and I just want to scarf it down and leave the dinner table. But when you eat too fast, not only are you susceptible to overeating, but your body doesn’t have time to digest or process it all. And swallowing food that hasn’t been thoroughly chewed can lead to digestive disorders. Eat slower and I promise you that you will feel fuller and likely will eat less.
  8. Make breakfast the most important meal of the day
    Everybody knows the common expression that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Do you know why they say that? Because it’s true. Not only will a hearty breakfast give your brain a burst to start the day right, but it’s also been said that our metabolism slows down during the day. Translation: we should eat our biggest meal in the morning and our smallest in the evening, but we often do the opposite of that and save the big meal for dinner. Then we overeat and go to bed with full stomachs that we cannot digest.
  9. Have a later lunch
    This one is a personal favorite of mine. I probably eat lunch later than most people do. If you eat a big enough breakfast, you can probably make it until one or two o’clock in the afternoon for lunch. And by eating a late lunch, you’re not as hungry for dinner, thus are less likely to overeat at dinner.
  10. Don’t eat within three hours of bedtime
    As previously mentioned, if our metabolism does indeed slow down as the day wears on, eating something late and going to bed with a full belly is just asking for trouble. Digestion becomes a difficult task and you’ll wake up feeling sluggish and in worse shape than the night before. Conversely, not eating three hours before bedtime will leave you feeling hungry, yet slimmer in the morning. Try eating your last bit of food three hours before bedtime, and make sure it’s enough food that will eliminate any temptation for a late-night snack.
  11. Eat socially
    As I noted earlier, eating slower is a crucial guideline to healthy eating. One way to slow down is to eat with others, rather than by yourself. If you eat alone, there’s no incentive to stop shoveling food in your mouth. But when others are around, not only will you want to exhibit good manners and not look like a pig, but you’ll also stop to talk in between bites. (Just don’t talk with your mouth full … please.)
  12. Keep track of your foods
    For the more diligent out there, getting in the habit of recording what you eat will help you realize just how many calories you are consuming and you can better plan and budget your food intake throughout the day. In the old days, you had to put pen to paper and record a journal, which obviously was a tedious chore and not very convenient. But we live in a digital world and you can download an app to your smartphone to help you keep track of what you eat. I use MyFitnessPal, which has an easy scanning device to scan barcodes and it gives you the nutritional facts of different foods, making it easy to log your running total.

What exactly is eggnog, and what part of the egg is the nog?

What the heck is eggnog made of, and which part of the egg is the nog?

As I sit here enjoying my cold, delicious eggnog in front of the Christmas tree, that little random thought just happened to pop into my head — which has become quite a weird habit as of late.

Eggnog has essentially become synonymous with Christmas and I can’t go a season without tossing back a glass of it. Maybe you’re the same? But whether you love eggnog or hate it, have you ever actually wondered what you’re drinking?

Try observing it as it sits in the glass. Not to ruin it for anybody, but it’s a weird, discolored goo that looks as if someone cracked open six eggs and poured some milk into it.

So, as my inquisitive mind often prompts me to do, I Googled the topic and came up with the answer.

According to the all-knowing, never deceiving Wikipedia, Eggnog is a “dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk and/or cream, sugar, whipped eggs and…” for the adults out there “…spirits such as brandy, rum or bourbon.”

Basically, what I just described is accurate: it’s a bunch of raw eggs mixed up with milk, topped off with sugar and cream.

And yet, somehow that still sounds appetizing to me. Go figure.

But why “nog?”

Wikipedia goes on: “The ‘nog’ part of its name may stem from the word noggin, a Middle English term for a small, carved wooden mug used to serve alcohol.”

So take the alcohol out of the recipe, and if you’re drinking nonalcoholic eggnog, you’re basically chugging eggs like Rocky Balboa.

Bottoms up!

Gluten-free Christmas cookies and desserts

Christmas is my favorite time of the year! We celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, bask in the joy and comfort of our families, cheerfully give gifts and deck our houses with lights and decorations.

And, let’s be honest, the majority of us pack on the pounds. How can we help it? There is too much good food and too many occasions where we sit down and eat large meals.

But perhaps the greatest offender of all this time of the year is the delicious Christmas cookies and desserts that we gorge ourselves on. I’m guilty of that as charged!

This year is a little different for me. This is the first Christmas season that I’ve been aware of my gluten intolerance. Feeling ill after eating is one sure way to avoid eating all these fatty foods to begin with! But … where’s the fun in that?

So, I set out to compile a list of gluten-free Christmas cookies and other dessert recipes to help others (and myself) get through the holidays with full bellies!

Choose by Category:

Frosted Sugar CookiesGingerbread CookiesTrufflesEggnog DessertsHolly/Wreath CookiesPeanut Butter BlossomsRum BallsSpritz CookiesChristmas FudgeBrownies and BlondiesToffee Squares and DessertsPeppermint DessertsCinnamon DessertsCranberry TreatsChocolate Peanut Butter BarsCaramel DelightsWalnut DessertsLemon SquaresChocolate CookiesPeanut Butter Cookies

The List:

Frosted Sugar Cookies

Delicious sugar cookies with a tasty frosted design, these have long been my favorite cookie of the season! The softer the better.

Gingerbread Cookies

Who doesn’t love gingerbread cookies!? Well, I guess there are plenty of people out there who do not. But this cookie is synonymous with Christmas desserts!

Truffles

Definitely a holiday and party classic, there are dozens of varieties of truffles out there for enthusiasts of all flavors.

Eggnog Desserts

Eggnog is one of those drinks I’d get sick of if I had it year round, but since it’s part of the Christmas season, I absolutely love indulging in it.

Holly/Wreath Cookies

If you like corn flakes and marshmallows, you’ll love these holiday treats, designed specifically for the Christmas season!

Peanut Butter Blossoms

You cannot give or receive a tray of Christmas cookies without spotting a few of these! Peanut butter flavor with a chocolate kiss — definitely a good combination.

Rum Balls

For the adult audience out there, a yummy confection of chocolate and rum. How can you go wrong?

Spritz Cookies

A classic, traditional buttery sugar cookie of German origin, this cookie is just enough to satisfy the appetite for a sugar rush, but not filling enough to spoil your appetite.

Christmas Fudge

My mouth waters at the mere mention of fudge! So rich and delicious, there are dozens of great choices. For the Christmas season, I have to say my fudge of choice is peppermint.

Brownies and Blondies

Not exactly limited to a Christmas dessert, brownies and blondies are a classic choice for the sugar craving. They can be given a special holiday flavoring to fit the season.

Toffee Squares and Desserts

I didn’t grow up much of a fan of toffee as a dessert, but it has really grown on me as an adult, and now, try keeping me away!

Peppermint Desserts

I’ve already mentioned my love of peppermint fudge, but the holiday taste isn’t just limited to that. There are plenty of opportunities to savor the flavor.

Cinnamon Cookies

Aside from Cinnamon Toast Crunch, rolls, and golden brown French toast, there’s no better use for cinnamon than in cookies!

Cranberry Treats

Tis the season for cranberries! I enjoy cranberries throughout the year, but it seems like from Thanksgiving through the new year, I can’t help but have extra servings of it.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

There’s no better combination of ingredients than peanut butter and chocolate — sorry, peanut butter and jelly enthusiasts! So naturally, this would be a top choice to reach for on Christmas cookie trays.

Caramel Delights

I like caramel on sundaes and in my chocolates, but there are certainly other good uses for it!

Walnut Desserts

Whether it be because of allergies or personal preference, desserts with nuts are not for everybody. But I like my protein — I’m a guy, after all.

Lemon Squares

A classic, year-round dessert, these remain a tasty treat for lemon fans.

Chocolate Cookies

There’s a wide variety of different types of chocolate cookies to fill out your cookie trays.

Peanut Butter Cookies

For those who can’t get enough peanut butter, you’re in luck! There are plenty of desserts to choose from.

In honor of National Chocolate Day … my Top 10 chocolates

October 28 is National Chocolate Day! I usually pay no mind to these types of honorary, seemingly arbitrary national days of recognition. I’m not quite sure how to celebrate National Toothbrush Day or National Trash Receptacle Day — are balloons and party hats the norm? — or why we need to recognize almost everything under the sun.

But I love chocolate — almost to an epic proportion on the stereotypical level that women do. I recently bought a bag of chocolates because my lovely wife said she had a craving for them. A day and a half later, they were gone. She got at least one … I think. You just can’t leave that stuff around our house or else I, the Chocolate Monster — think of a big brown version of Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster shouting “chocolate!” — will scarf it all down.

So, in honor of National Chocolate Day, here’s a list of my ten favorite chocolate-flavored candies.

  1. White Chocolate Easter Bunny

    Every Easter, I can’t wait to bite into a big ol’ honkin’ solid brick of white chocolate shaped like an Easter bunny.

  2. Raisinets

    Who doesn’t love the mixture of chocolate and raisins? Unless you have a problem with raisins, that is.

  3. Whoppers

    What exactly are these things? A cookie? A piece of candy? Whatever gives these malt balls their chocolatey crunch is all right in my book.

  4. Mounds

    Here’s another chocolate candy with a special ingredient that doesn’t jive with everyone’s taste buds. If you don’t like coconut, you must not like these. Fortunately for me, I do. Every now and then, I’ll throw in an Almond Joy for the nut inside.

  5. M&M’s (Peanut Butter, Mint, Pretzel, Plain)

    These are an all-time classic candy. Bite-sized chocolate with a thin candy shell that melt in your mouth and not in your hand. I threw all of my favorite types of M&M’s together in this one category because there sure are a lot.

  6. Cadbury Caramel Eggs / Cadbury Caramello

    Chocolate and caramel is an excellent combination and these two products from Cadbury just ooze with deliciousness. As we honor the resurrection of our savior Jesus Christ, one of my favorite secular parts of Easter is biting into the Cadbury Eggs.

  7. Hershey milk chocolate bar / Hershey Special Dark / Hershey’s Kisses

    This is another product that could have been divided into different items, but they’re all closely related. I’m a big fan of dark chocolate and will reach for one of those before the milk chocolate bar. But both are delicious. And, of course, who can resist a bite-sized kiss to quell the oncoming hunger during snack hours? The only problem is that those things can turn into a meal if you’re not careful!

  8. Butterfinger

    This was my favorite candy bar as a kid — maybe the fact that Bart Simpson endorsed it had something to do with that. I still like to indulge in one of these every now and then and the combination of peanut butter and crispy crunch is too much too pass up.

  9. 3 Musketeers

    This has been my favorite candy bar since I grew out of my Butterfinger phase as a kid. The fluffy whipped chocolate inside provides a nice change of pace from the crunchiness of the Butterfinger, Kit Kat, Whoppers, and others. I also don’t feel as full after eating one of these as I do from some other chocolates.

  10. Reese’s Pieces / Peanut Butter Cups / Peanut Butter Chocolate Trees

    Reese’s Pieces are my favorite candy. Period. They’re not exactly a “candy bar”, so the 3 Musketeers holds that title for me. The peanut butter cups are delicious as well, but a little more difficult to open up and can be more messy. And every Christmastime — and throughout the year as well — Reese’s comes out with different-shaped peanut butter and chocolate bites. But Christmas is the best because they’re shaped as little trees — don’t ask why that makes ’em the best. They just are.

Honorable Mention:

  • Milky Way
    How do you list your favorite chocolates and not include this classic? It’s solid, but not the best in the universe.
  • Snickers
    Hungry? Why wait? Sometimes I need a few peanuts with my chocolate.
  • Kit Kat
    Give me a break. Break me off a piece … oh, who am I kidding? Give me the whole thing!
  • Twix
    Two for me and none for you … unless I like you.
  • Heath Bar
    For when I’m feeling like I need a little toffee in my life.
  • Junior Mint
    Just ask Kramer from Seinfeld: Junior Mints are “chocolate, peppermint, delicious. … They’re very refreshing.” The combination of chocolate and mint is an excellent choice. Too much of a good thing, though, can be overload.

Beware the psychotic black coffee drinkers!

Next time you order a black coffee, don’t be surprised if you receive a few wary looks: people just might think you’re a psychotic.

According to a recent study conducted by the University of Innsbruck in Austria, results revealed that black coffee drinkers scored higher in personality questionnaires that assessed psychopathic tendencies.

How black coffee and psychosis are related is a mystery, but apparently psychotics don’t have time for cream and sugar. Maybe they all gather together in a coffee shop and share their psychosis with each other in some sort of psychopathic support group.

As a black coffee drinker myself, I assure you that both my natural, gentle personality combined with my faith and trust in the Lord has prevented any kind of psychopathic gene in my entire body.

You’ve gotta love science.

Scientists, and others who are professionally involved in the field, seek to find causality for why people or things behave the way they do. They want to connect stimulants to responses in an effort to better understand how life works, ultimately with the greater goal of preventing unwanted behaviors, diseases, or other unpleasantries.

For the most part, I’m glad that these studies exist. After all, I’m sure it’s safe to say that we all yearn for a day when cancer is obliterated, mentally disturbed people are reached before they do harm to others, and we’re able to prevent other disasters before they happen.

However, every now and then, studies are done that give results that make little sense at all. This is one such example.

Burgers on the grill alleviate paint fumes in the bathroom

When you have some time to yourself and are doing mindless, repetitive work, it gives you the opportunity to do some thinking. Yesterday while spending nine hours painting our new master bathroom, I was able to ponder some of the important things in life.

I started the day listening to sports talk radio — a favorite pastime of mine — as three pundits debated and analyzed the rookies that the Chicago Bears had selected in this year’s NFL Draft. When they went off the air, I put my iTunes on shuffle and hummed — sometimes sang — along to some of my favorite music. Finally, sometime in the afternoon, I blocked out all audio and decided to let my mind wander.

After opening the window to let some air in — and let the paint fumes out — I couldn’t help but hear what was going on around the neighborhood. The first thing I noticed was the sound of kids playing in the distance. This warmed the heart not only by bringing back memories from my past, playing sports in the yard with my best friends on a warm, spring day, but it also let me know that despite the influx in technology that affords almost every young child a digital device in their hands, having a healthy, active social life is still alive and well.

I realize that there’s a growing problem with unhealthy living among kids these days. I think too often I catch kids playing on their iPods, cell phones or other gaming devices when they could be outside getting some fresh air and exercise. I once even caught a kid playing basketball on a phone and asked him, “Why don’t you just go outside and play that?” (He actually went out and kept playing basketball on his device, but at least he was outside).

The next thing I noticed while lying on the cold, hard tile on my side with a paintbrush in my hand was the smell of a grill somewhere in the nearby vicinity. With only some Dove chocolates and flavored peanuts in my stomach, I was salivating at the mouth.

I love barbecues. I enjoy the togetherness with friends and family, the yard games and swimming, and of course, the delicious burgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, potato salad, fruit, and other yummy food! Going to barbecues are one of my favorite summertime activities because it’s a good chance to connect with others and really relax and enjoy the life God has provided us.

The last thing I noticed while hunched over the toilet — no, I wasn’t sick; I was just trying to get a better angle at painting behind the toilet … don’t get me started on that difficult chore! — was a quiet conversation from our neighbors. Don’t worry, I didn’t eavesdrop, and I couldn’t make out what was being said, anyway. But when I stood up I could see out the window into the yard next door and saw them sitting around their patio table basking in the beautiful weather.

I’m a man who enjoys simple pleasures and I couldn’t be happier with the day I had on Saturday. Was it hard work painting? Oh yeah. It took me two hours to tape the trim and another nine hours to finish painting — this in addition to the eight hours I spent painting the other half of the room the previous weekend. I wound up sore from head to toe after contorting my body in all different shapes and angles.

But in a short period of time I was able to escape into momentary bliss, getting lost in the moment and enjoying the beauty of life. Sometimes we get lost in the middle of our busy lives, painting bathrooms or playing on our digital devices, and we don’t take a moment to enjoy and appreciate the natural gifts all around us.

Take the time to look around you and you just might find something pleasing to the senses.

Using a coffee metaphor as a cure for the Case of the Mondays

Everybody hates Mondays. That’s pretty much the general consensus, isn’t it? You’re tired. You’re cranky. You’re often disoriented and disheveled, never quite feeling like yourself. The weekend seems to have ended prematurely and you’re never ready to return to the rat race of the working world.

Maybe you didn’t get enough rest over the weekend even though you vowed to sleep in for a change. Perhaps you were so busy running errands and doing household chores that it hardly felt like you got a break from labor. Or, you might have had such a good time at a family party or a trip to the amusement park or exploring the city that it is difficult to let go of the good times.

Whatever the case may be, the last thing you want to do on a Monday morning is have your nervous system be jolted by the piercing sound of an alarm clock, drag yourself out of your warm, comfy bed to the cold bathroom to get ready, and climb in the car to commute to work among the masses of other 9-to-5’ers trudging to their day jobs.

Yes, Monday mornings are often a difficult burden. But maybe we’re looking at them the wrong way. Maybe instead of looking at Mondays as the worst day of the week and Fridays as the best, we should flip the perspective.

Think of the work week as a cup of coffee. Which sip of coffee is better? That first savoring sip from a hot cup that perks you right up? Or the reluctant last gulp of lukewarm — often cool — liquid that is more a chore to finish than a pick-me-up?

Talk about a no-brainer!

Why not treat Mondays as the first sip from the delectable cup of coffee you yearn to get your hands on? Start the week off craving a tasty mouthful of energy and refreshment. Use that energy to be productive and start the week on the right foot. By the time you get to the end of the week, you’ll have made great progress on whatever you happen to be working on for the week. It’ll make Fridays all the more pleasant knowing you’ve accomplished a great deal, and you’ll feel like you’ve earned the weekend break that awaits you.

Christmas cookie recipes: Tis the season to pack on the pounds!

I’m no baker, that’s for sure. Send me into the kitchen to bake soft, round cookies and I’ll come back out with amoeba-shaped hockey pucks. But Christmas cookies are delicious and are one of my favorite desserts of the calendar year. I’d have to say my favorite are the frosted sugar cookies — clearly, one of the most popular kind there is.

Here’s a few resources for those with more luck wearing the chef’s hat than I do.