Sally’s Baking Addiction: July, 2018 Challenge: Hand Pies 🍏🍒🥧

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Technically, the challenge was for apple hand pies. But, I was really impressed by the gorgeous cherries in the store that day, so I decided to make both varieties 😊

I mentioned before, in the cherry pie challenge from last year, that I am not much of a pie baker. It’s not really so much that I am intimidated by making pie crust, I am just more of a crumble fan. But that cherry pie last year was so good, thanks to Sally’s recipe and, this is the point of a challenge is it not? To try new things🥧!

I started out by making a double batch of her homemade pie crust. This is a really simple recipe that includes both shortening and butter. I have also made her all butter crust in the past, and that is delicious too. I opted for this version due to the hot weather we are having in Seattle. The all butter recipe would have been more temperamental than I would have liked that day!

Like most pie crust recipes, you start by cutting in the cold fat until it is the size of peas. My “peas” are always huge! More like lima beans. Then cold water is drizzled in until the mix starts to clump.

When the mix is ready (not too dry or wet) it is formed into a disk, wrapped with plastic and chilled. I like to do this the night before.

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The next day I went climbing outside, then came home and made the fillings. First the apple: Pretty much a classic apple pie filling. A couple apples, sugar, butter and spices all cooked down and cooled.

Then the cherry filling. Sally has many to choose from and I went with her simple cherry pastry pie filling. The only change I made was to use half bing and half rainier cherries. I like the balance of sweet and tart that these two varieties contribute to the pie.

Cherries were combined with sugar and lemon. This cooked down and was thickened with a cornstarch and water mixture.

Once the fillings were completely cooled, it was time to roll out the chilled pie dough. I used a 3.5 inch cutter and some smaller shapes to make some decorative cut outs.

I had to be careful to chill in between each step to keep the dough cold. This took some time! Finally, it was time to fill the hand pies.🍏

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The tops went on, and pressed to seal to the bottom pastry. The top was brushed with egg wash and the vents were cut. Finally the decorative cut outs applied, and sprinkled with coarse sugar.

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Then the cherry hand pies were assembled.🍒

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I tried to make the decorations different to distinguish the apple from the cherry.

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All the hand pies went into a 375F oven for about 30 minutes. While they were baking I prepared Sally’s Homemade Salted Carmel Sauce for the apple pies, and a simple Vanilla glaze for the cherry ones.

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By the way, that caramel sauce is amazing on ice cream 🍨!

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The verdict: Both the apple and cherry hand pies were quite tasty!😋 My husband and I were partial to the cherry one, just a bit more! In fact, I may have to make a full cherry pie when we get back from traveling later this month 🍒😊🥧

Give this a try! the recipe is easy to scale up or down, and many of the components are freezable and easy to make ahead. Enjoy!!

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: June, 2018 Challenge: Brownie Baked Alaska 🍨

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For the month of June, Sally challenged us to make a retro baked Alaska. The twist: no cake base! Sally admits that she does not like cake combined with ice cream. My son is the same way. I also never eat cake mixed directly with ice cream, I don’t like the soggy cake texture 😳

So I knew my family would love the brownie, cake and merengue combo. This is such an easy dessert to make, and the entire thing can be assembled, frozen and then torched right before you serve it to your guests. I decided that Father’s Day would be a great time for us to try this out.

There is a little prep work that needs to be done the night before. The ice cream needs to be shaped and frozen. I purchased my ice cream, but I do like to make it from scratch, perhaps next time! This 9 inch, 2.5 quart mixing bowl will hold 3 quarts of ice cream. I chose mint chocolate chip since it is one of my hubby’s favorite flavors. The ice cream is softened and placed into a mixer with a paddle attachment, and beaten until creamy. The softened ice cream is placed into the mixing bowl, which has been lined with plastic wrap. This will make unmolding much easier! Wrap it tight and place in the freezer for at least 8 hours. I put mine in overnight.

The next day I made one of Sally’s brownie recipes. She has many to choose from, you will find the one you like😊. I went with the Chewy, Fudgy Homemade brownies😋 So glad I did! Super easy and so tasty!

First melt butter and chocolate together and let cool slightly. Whisk in the sugars, eggs and vanilla.

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Add the flour, cocoa and salt

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Fold in the dry ingredients and a cup of chocolate chips

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Bake in a 9 inch pan, which fits the circumference of the bowl.

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Let this cool completely, then add it to the bowl of frozen ice cream. Invert the brownie, rewrap and keep frozen while you prepare the merengue.

 

Set the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar over simmering water. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved, then place in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the vanilla and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

 

Generously spoon the merengue onto the unmolded ice cream and brownie bombe.

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This can be frozen until you are ready to serve, or you can get out your handy torch and go for it! No torch? No problem, just use the broiler function in your oven. But don’t walk away!!

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The left overs stayed in the freezer for several days and still tasted great! We enjoyed this so much, and it was so easy, that I decided to serve this at the second Yoga Retreat that I catered this past weekend.

I went with the individual cupcakes for the Yogis 🧘🏻‍♀️. The only difference was that the brownie batter was placed into a lined muffin tin, and there was no pre-freezing involved.

The cooled brownie cups were unwrapped, a scoop of ice cream was added, then the merengue as previously described. I assemble 8 and placed them in the freezer for after dinner.

The yogis had fun torching their own desserts 😃 .

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1529732028525This was a fun, easy summer dessert 🍨. Another great idea from Sally’s Baking Addiction!🙏

Sally’s Baking Addiction: May, 2018 Challenge: Classic Cheesecake 🍰

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Last month we made croissants, which was pretty time consuming. I think Sally took pity on us and assigned a much less cumbersome challenge for May: the classic cheesecake.

If you have ever made a cheesecake, you know that they are not that difficult. There are very few ingredients, the only tricky part is baking it in such a way that you don’t have a giant crack in the center. It is not that hard really. You just need to use a water bath and be sure to avoid over mixing the cheese cake filling.

I didn’t want a huge cake, so I opted for these mini cakes so my hubby could unload take them to his coworkers! I didn’t need to create the water bath, just had to keep an eye on them while they were in the oven. I also decided to top each with chocolate ganache, which absolved me of any cracking issues 😉

First up, the graham cracker crust. The crushed cracker crumbs were combined with vanilla sugar and butter. Sally used regular sugar, I just prefer to reinforce the vanilla flavor by baking with the vanilla sugar I always keep on hand for dessert preparations.

The result is a sandy, textured mix that is spooned into a paper lined muffin tin.

 

This recipe makes about 9 cakes, and they were pre-baked for 5 minutes at 350ºF.

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While these cooled, I made the filling. This was so fast and easy! Cream cheese, more vanilla sugar, sour cream, vanilla, lemon juice and an egg were placed into the bowl and mixed until just combined.

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Try not to whip this! No extra air should be incorporated to avoid cracking while baking and this is a very thick mixture. Just a few tablespoons are needed to cover each of the crusts.

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The pan goes into the 350ºF oven for about 20 minutes. The cakes are done when the edges are just set, and the center is still a little jiggly (just like a full cheesecake). Make sure these cool completely by placing them in the fridge for, at least, 2 hours. I actually made the cakes and refrigerated overnight. They will sink a little in the center, but just add a topping of fruit or chocolate and they will be perfect!

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So easy and tasty 😋! Another awesome Sally recipe. Try either the full cake, or these minis, for a fast and delicious dessert, and let me know what you think👩🏻‍🍳 💕

X is for Xanthum Gum

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Have you heard of Xanthum Gum? If you are gluten free, have Celiac disease or are a strict vegan, then you probably have! The rest of us may have heard it on a popular ice cream commercial. It’s the one where the cute kids are trying to read the list of ingredients and have to pronounce all the strange chemical names.

Xanthum gum is not a strange name, but is a food additive that is found in almost anything that needs a preservative or stabilizer, think of the interior of your local grocery store!images

It was discovered in 1960, and by 1968 the FDA had approved it for human consumption.

It is a polysaccharide made from either glucose, sucrose or lactose.

Xanthomonas campestris is the naturally occurring bacteria that is used to make Xanthum gum. If you are a gardener then you have seen this bacteria many times (I know I have!) See the black rot on this cauliflower leaf? That’s Xanthomonas campestris

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How Xanthum gum  is made

Xanthomonas campestris is a bacteria that will use glucose, sucrose or lactose as a food source. Xanthum gum is produced when one of these sugars is fermented by the bacteria, and then precipitated with isopropyl alcohol. The precipitate is then dried and ground into a powder which can be added to a liquid to form a “gum”.

 

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The result is the white powder that you can buy at the store. It is often used in vegan and gluten free baking.

What is it used for specifically?

The applications for this gel like substance are almost endless. It is inert, meaning is has no flavor of its own and does not interact, chemically, to its surroundings. It is therefore useful in lowering the friction point of metals. In an industrial setting it can act as a lubricant for pistons and cylinders. It is used as a cheap and effective substance in drilling operations, particularly in fresh and salt water operations.

It is also found in cosmetics, lotions and medicines. Even your toothpaste has xanthum gum!

Sounds tasty huh? But, remember is has no taste!

Why is it in our food supply?

People often site the fact that xanthum gum is used for large scale industrial purposes as a reason for it to be unhealthy for human consumption. It bother folks that this product can be used for other applications. The truth is that this is a natural product, produced by a bacterium, and has unique properties that make is useful in food preparation.

Like chia seeds, the xanthum gum will swell when added to liquids.

l_11350_chefsteps.coffeeIts consistency acts as a thickening agent when added to soups or stews. Most of us use butter and flour as a thickening agent, but if you are gluten or dairy free, that is not an option for you.

Xanthum can be used as a gluten subsitute in baking by acting as a binding agent, taking the place of eggs and/or flour.

It is also found in commercially prepared salad dressings, where it is utilized as an emulsifier, to keep oil and water mixed. As well as commercially prepared pastry fillings to keep water from soaking into the pastry dough.

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It is found in ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming and helps to maintain the smoothness of the final product.

 

 

 

Since xanthum gum swells when it contacts liquids, it will do that in your intestines as well. Therefore it acts like a laxative in the intestines and stimulates the digetstive tract to push stool through the colon. The more xanthum gum one ingests the more laxative effect! Many popular bulk laxatives use xanthum gum to help people deal with constipation.

Is it safe to eat?

Yes! The World Health Organization (WHO) determined that it is safe to consume 15 grams/day. As  a reference point, most protein powders use less than half a gram per serving, mainly for texture, so 15 grams in a single day would be considered a huge amount.

Are you afraid to drinking beer of wine, consider it is dangerous? Both liquids are a products of bacterial or fungal fermentation. As is yogurt and cheese! One of my favs 😊

Studies have been conducted on the effects of  xanthum gum and found that it can lower both overall sugars and cholesterol in diabetics. Additionally, it can act as a saliva substitute in people who suffer from dry mouth.

Of course, people can be sensitive to this, like they can be sensitivite to any food additive.  If you suspect that you have a sensitivity to xanthum gum, it is not easily avoided due to its prevalence in so many products, food or otherwise. However, when you make salad dressings, or ice cream at home, you do not add xanthum gum specifically.

Home cooked is still always best 😉

Hopefully this demystifies xanthum gum for you, at least a little bit. 🙏😊

References;

https://draxe.com/what-is-xanthan-gum/

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-340/xanthan-gum

https://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=post&id=57A3313A-D446-9E0C-44E2-8CDDCC498C35

 

 

A to Z Challenge: W is for Wine

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Do you remember when a study came out, about 20 years ago, stating that red wine was good for you? There were no real details, like why it was good for you, or in what way you would benefit. There certainly was no information about how much, or how little, you should drink to get these amazing benefits. A lot of people just heard “red wine” and “good”, and were satisfied with that!

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I get it! I like a drink every now and then too, so it would make sense that if you tell people something they want to hear, they won’t ask a lot of questions. 🧐

In the two decades that have passed since that day, there have been numerous studies conducted on both white and red wine, as well as other spirits, largely negating those small, positive correlations of the original studies.  But, if you ask the average person if consuming alcohol is healthy, they most likely will tell you that red wine is good for you, and leave it at that.

So, let’s take a look at that statement.

All forms of alcohol, not just wine, contain heart healthy factors.

Alcohol will raise the HDL form of cholesterol, and lower the LDL form. This means that cholesterol will be flushed out of the arteries before it has a chance to build up and form a blockage, known as plaque.

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Alcohol also reduces the formation of blood clots by interfering with platelet adhesion, thereby acting as a blood thinner.

Alcohol may also improve the function of the cells lining the arteries themselves.

Alcohols also has anti-inflammatory properties, anti- cancer activators and has been shown to increase longevity in lower life forms.

It sounds amazing doesn’t it! 🍸 🍷 🍹

Why did red wine get singled out?

Red wine contains over 500 natural occurring chemical substances. One of those is resveratrol.

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This is the compound found in the skin of red grapes. 🍇 It is one of the polyphenol class of antioxidants. Red grape skins are used in the fermentation of both red and white wine varieties, so white wine also contains resveratrol, but the red varieties have 13 times the amount. Food scientists have long credited red wine, and resveratrol, as the factor that explains the “French Paradox”. This is the notion that the French, who have lower levels of heart disease, obesity and Type II diabetes, in spite of consuming a diet high in fat and cholesterol, are drinking red wine with their meals and avoiding the harmful effects of their cuisine. Studies began by isolating resveratrol and looking at its effects on cells, and in small mammals. Small, positive correlations were observed and quickly the population grabbed onto the new idea that red wine was good for you.

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It didn’t take long for the herbal supplement machine to grab onto this information. This single antioxidant was concentrated and plugged into a capsule and sold. Annual sales reached an all time high of 30 million dollars in the Untied States, and the list of aliments supposedly cured by this one substances went far and above any of the actual testing that occurred.

The marketing teams touted that you can get all the benefits without the nasty hangovers or detrimental affects brought on by alcoholic beverages.

Not surprising!

 

 

Are there no other sources of resveratrol in the world!?😳

Of course there are! This is an antioxidant, which means you can eat healthy, colorful foods that will give you all the resveratrol your cells can use. The added bonus is that these foods are also full of other cancer fighting, and heart healthy boosting nutrients.

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You could just eat the grapes! The skin is where the antioxidants are contained so look for red, black and purple fruits. Blueberries, cranberries, dark chocolate and even peanuts have resveratrol, as well as many other fine nutrients.

The key is moderation🍇🍆🍫🍷

The last 20 years of data have demonstrated that red wine is not responsible for The French Paradox. There really is no mystery there at all. The French practice portion control, walking is part of their daily lifestyle and they consume more whole foods and less processed products.

Bottom line: if you love your red wine, have a glass (ladies) or two (fellas). Not a bottle! The standard serving size varies from different regulatory governing bodies, but this chart is a close representation from all guidelines.

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And don’t drink to the point of lowering your inhibitions and eating the foods you know will not help you meet your overall health goals. 😉

And don’t kid yourself! That is not a 5 oz. vitamin drink! You need a balanced diet to get the benefits of resveratrol and its antioxidant buddies. 😊

Cheers 🥂 !

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281

https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/is-red-wine-good-for-you.aspx

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1868537

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/drinking-red-wine-is-good-for-you–or-maybe-not/2017/12/01/49f55e7a-cbd3-11e7-aa96-54417592cf72_story.html?utm_term=.61891f50c52e

 

A to Z Challenge: R is for Recipes

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Healthy recipes, that is! I wanted to share some wonderful healthy food blogs with you today. These are blogs I follow and regularly search when I am looking for inspiration!

Let’s dive in!

Eat Yourself Skinny

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Kelly started her food blog in 2011. After getting married she and her hubby both gained a little weight, and she decided to create some healthier recipes. Now her blog has tons of recipes for their new, healthier lifestyle. You will be able to find vegan, paleo and dairy free recipes. As well as tips for clean eating in general.

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Sally Gronin has founded more than just a food blog. She has lived in a huge variety of countries and brings her knowledge to her, amazingly comprehensive site. Along with Carol Taylor, another well travelled lady, they have created “Cook from scratch with Sally and Carol”. They take nutritionally dense ingredients and create healthy, and hearty dishes. Additionally, Sally features health related news articles, and a nutritional directory. Truly, a one stop shop for nutritional information and delicious recipes!

Everyday Healthy Recipes

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Monika takes classic dishes, and comfort foods, and gives them modern and healthy twists. We share the belief that dieting is not the answer, but living a healthy lifestyle will enhance ones quality of life. Her recipes are easy enough to make any busy weeknight and she is wonderful about answer culinary questions! I should know, I bug her a lot and she has always come through for me, thank you Monika!😊

There are a couple other sources I like:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/09/healthy-food-blogs_n_5460940.html

https://makeyourbodywork.com/best-healthy-food-blogs/

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipes/84/healthy-recipes/

 

I hope this helps you the next time you are looking for some delicious and healthy options🌽🥑🍓😋

 

A to Z Challenge: N is for Nutrition

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When I thought about tackling this HUGE topic, a couple things went through my mind. What should I focus on? I don’t want to give dieting and weight loss advice, as I have already stated, I don’t believe in dieting.

I don’t want to talk specifically about nutrition for extreme body building. Those folks already spend a ton of time working out their own specialized nutrition plans for, lets face it, physiques most of us are not interested in developing.

So what does that leave? How about a quick refresher on nutrition for active people, who are working out regularly and looking to maximize those efforts. Bingo!

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What do moderately active people need to fuel their fitness?

I don’t think there will be any “Aha” moments here! You need carbs, fats, and protein and pretty much in that order!

55%-60% of your daily calories should be carbohydrates, where the majority are from starches and only 10%-15% from refined or simple sugars.

30% of the calories should be from healthy sources of fat, and 10-15% from lean protein.

The easiest way to accomplish these targets is to eat a variety of foods each day, from low fat dairy, meat and produce. I think most people know a healthy fat from a less than stellar source: Think olive oil, versus butter. And, again, most know that protein from beans, and poultry is leaner than bacon!

Carbohydrates seem to give people the most trouble when trying to diferentiate the type of carb and the best source. Let’s talk carbs for a minute and what happens in your body.

If your cells could choose, they would use glucose as their primary energy source. Simple  sugars are glucose, or very close relatives to glucose, and can be turned into useable energy right away, and therefore gone quickly. Glucose stores are the primary fuel that  is burned in the first 20 minutes of exercise.

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All these simple sugars are used for fast energy

Now, all carbs and fats are fuel, but not all can be used immediately.

As you continue to use up the available glucose in your blood, your cells will have to convert more complex carbs, or starches stored in your body, into glucose and then burn it. Triglycerides are a great example and are being consumed at this point, and you will have enough energy for about a two hour work out.

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This is just one triglyceride molecule! See all those Carbon atoms? When the cell breaks those off, energy is released and your muscles function. It takes some time to get in there and break up this guy, but you have a lot of potential energy in here!

 

Finally the cells move onto larger fat molecules, which store the most energy. Those large molecules are broken down into smaller molecules, atoms are rearranged and bam, you have made more glucose to burn and fuel your activity.6c4bbd39756be63a8e8869294fb36421

What this means is that, unless you are working out at a high intensity for more that 60 – 90 minutes you will not need to consume carbs during your work out. Many people make the mistake of overestimating the number of calories they have burned, and underestimate the number of calories they take in after their workout.

 

Do not make the mistake of cutting out all carbohydrates from your diet!

Remember the whole “fat makes you fat” trend? Everyone was cutting out all fat from their eating plans, until we learned that you need healthy fats or your metabolism will not function properly. The same goes for carbs! If you severely limit your carbohydrates and then exercise, you will throw off the timing for your energy needs.

Make sure you have the proper fuel before you begin your workout.

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And you need to eat smart after the workout, this is not a “I did X so now I can eat Y” moment! You need to be honest about how much work was done, and for how long!

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And don’t forget that water!! Hydration is crucial, even in cold weather.

 

The Bottom Line!

Healthy active people need all macrobiotics (fats, proteins and carbs) to perform their activities. If you have some weight you wish to loose, you know what you need to do!

Eat food from healthy sources, and move your body.  🏋🏻‍♀️🧘🏻‍♀️🥊🏃‍♀️🏊‍♀️🧗‍♀️🚴‍♀️

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References:

https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/the-six-pillars-of-successful-fitness-nutrition.html

https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/nutrition_and_fitness

http://www.gssiweb.org/en/sports-science-exchange/article/sse-59-fat-metabolism-during-exercise-new-concepts

https://ketoschool.com/the-science-behind-fat-metabolism-60f7a3f678d0