Yo Momma Monday: Tiffany McCauley of The Gracious Pantry

yo momma mondayAfter I had Cecilia, I got really interested in clean eating and living a clean lifestyle and one of my biggest inspirations was The Gracious Pantry. Tiffany’s recipes were simple, easy to follow, I didn’t have to search endlessly in a health food store for the ingredients and best of all – they were good! I was even able to trick my boyfriend into eating healthy. I learned about cooking from scratch from her website, and it forced me to slow down a little in the kitchen.

This is why I’m so happy to feature Tiffany in this week’s Yo Momma Monday!

Tiffany, 40, lives in Sonoma County with her son, whom she lovingly calls “Mini Chef” in her Facebook posts and recipes. She became a stay-at-home-mom soon after she found out she was pregnant, as her difficult pregnancy did not allow her to work much. She and her then husband had already planned on raising their son on their own, so that pretty much sealed the deal.

“The balancing act is always something I struggle with. The truth is, if you are giving your full attention to work, you will be lacking something in your mothering. And if you give your full attention to mothering, you will be lacking something in your work. So it really is a juggling act.

I think the most important thing you can do is forgive yourself for coming up short every once in a while. While most moms like to think they can do it all, it just isn’t humanly possible to actually do it all. So you have to focus on doing your best and forgiving the rest.”

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Tiffany is a self-taught cook who says the most valuable lesson she could pass down to a beginning cook is that burning your dinner is not the end of the world. She assures that just because you burned it one time doesn’t mean you’ll burn it again. “You can’t give up because of one mistake,” she says.

“I also learned that when you start out with making a casserole and end up with soup, you don’t throw it away, you have soup for dinner! Cooking is a very creative thing. It’s an ongoing experiment. Evolve with the food you make instead of trying to make the food conform. You never know, you might end up with a new family favorite!”

Now that she is comfortable in the kitchen, she heavily involves her son in cooking, and says that she never questioned whether or not he would cook.

“And I think that is the very reason he loves doing it. It’s not a matter of teaching your kids something they already like, it’s a matter of teaching them to like something they absolutely must do to survive. Showing them that cooking can be fun. After all, the memories made in the kitchen just can’t be made anywhere else.

It’s really just a process of getting your kids involved with the everyday functioning of your life. They are definitely their own people, but when you function as a family unit, everyone needs to contribute in some way. Making time in the kitchen a regular thing is important. And I have found that most kids naturally gravitate towards cooking. They love learning about food and how to prepare it. It’s usually a naturally fun thing for them to do. You just have to present it the right way, and set things up so it’s not intimidating for them. 
 
For my little guy, that involved a stepping stool so he could reach the counter, an age-appropriate knife with careful supervision, and apron that was just for him, and even a special pig spatula that he got to pick out at the store himself. When you set kids up to succeed in the kitchen, you’ll find very little, if any, resistance.”
 
Kid-Friendly YoNuggets

Kid-Friendly YoNuggets / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Tiffany realizes the importance of teaching kids how to cook, and she says our society has become incredibly removed  from the very thing that sustains us.
 
“I’m finding that many grown adults these days were raised on boxed and packaged food from a freezer or on food that came through a drive-thru window. I know kids today who get three meals a day from a fast food restaurant. It’s a sad state of affairs. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fix it.

 
I think that teaching kids about food is the most important gift we can give them. Because it not only empowers them to feed themselves and their own families some day, but it also gives them power over their own health. Anybody who has health problems can tell you how important that is. Particularly when the life expectancy of our children is now getting shorter instead of longer. All you have to do is step back and take a look at the bigger picture where the health of our country is concerned to see why teaching our kids about real food is so critical.
 
Gone are the days when we could “trust” a large food corporation. And I would argue that those days never really existed. Because if you really dive into food politics at all, you’ll see that the stuff they label as “food” is actually very far from it. Our bodies were meant to run on food. Not food-like products. So it’s easy to see why health can go downhill so fast when you are not giving your body the fuel it needs.”
 
Tiffany talks a lot in her blog about how she dealt with body image problems through much of her life, something she learned from her mother. She says that the hardest thing is to not pass those problems down to her own child.
 
Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Photo from Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

“It’s a constant struggle and sometime I fail miserably. When you have been raised to view your body a certain way, it’s a very difficult thing to change. Sometimes it feels impossible. I don’t think I’ll ever really get past it completely, but I am learning to respect my body for the things it does every day and appreciate it for what it can do.
 
I mean, this body of mine made an entire human being. That’s pretty impressive if you ask me!! But I do still struggle with body image. It’s not an easy thing to overcome, no matter how much I try to show it respect. I think becoming a mom has simply made me far more aware of how badly I can put myself down sometimes. Not wanting to pass that on to my child has been a huge motivation for me to overcome this.”
 
For Tiffany, the biggest change she noticed after adapting clean eating to her lifestyle was how clear her skin was.
 
“I also lost some weight and started to feel much better. I noticed I actually felt full after a meal instead of wanting more and more food. I later understood that it was because my body was actually getting the nutrients it needed. I chose this lifestyle because I believe that real food is the answer to many problems we face today. My own personal eating plan is constantly evolving to suit my needs, but it’s always based on real food.”
 
Clean Eating Blueberry French Toast Casserole. Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Clean Eating Blueberry French Toast Casserole / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Before The Gracious Pantry, she had several other blogs, so she know she loved the blogging process. With this site, she wanted to track her own progress and share recipes she created.
 
“The best part about the blogging community is how small it really is. There may be a million blogs out there, but the community itself has sort of a “small town” feel to it. Once you start to grow, you get to know everybody and everybody gets to know you.”
 
Since starting The Gracious Pantry, Tiffany has also wrote a cookbook, which she says was a long and difficult process, but one that is filled with creativity and passion, one she equates with giving birth.
 
“You work really hard, sweat some, cry some, spend a lot of money, and in the end, you have this wonderful, amazing thing you can hold in your hands. You forget all about the difficult stuff and can’t wait to do it again! And at the end of the day, you are doing something you love and something you hope that others will love as well.”
 
Clean Eating Vegetable Basil Macaroni Salad. Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Clean Eating Vegetable Basil Macaroni Salad / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

She posts every other day without fail, because she wants to show people the endless variety of dishes they can make with real food. She wants people to learn that real food is delicious and to not be afraid of the kitchen. She also hopes people will learn that their health really will improve when they focus on real food and that cooking food does not have to take a lot of time, or money.
 
“The best compliments I get are the ones where people tell me that their lives/health/bodies have improved since they started cooking with my recipes. I think that sort of compliment is the most validating thing a health blogger could ever ask for.”
 
Her favorite recipe on her blog is the plum torte, and while she never posts a recipe that she does not like, she has had some fails – like a low carb brownie recipe that she is still working on. As for her favorite blogs and magazines, she likes iBlog Magazine and Will Write for Food.
 
“I tend to gravitate towards the blogs with the magazine quality photos. Really great photos are something I aspire to.”
 
Plum Torte / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious  Pantry

Plum Torte / Photo Credit: Tiffany McCauley / The Gracious Pantry

Now that Tiffany is in culinary school, she would like to host a cooking show in the future and to continue writing more books. “I’d also love to start teaching healthy cooking classes to kids. I’ve taught one or two and they are just so much fun,” she says. Her biggest advice for people who are beginning a clean eating lifestyle is simple: take it slow.
 
“Take it one meal at a time. Realize you WILL make mistakes. But the secret in success is using those mistakes. If you throw in the towel every time you goof up, you’ll never stick to anything. Using those mistakes to learn. A mistake isn’t the end of the world and it shouldn’t be the end of your healthy endeavors. Just keep at it. Success is found in perseverance. Come back to it again and again, no matter how badly you mess up.”
 
You can find out more about Tiffany and her recipes by visiting The Gracious Pantry. And for all you awesome moms out there, I still have two spaces left for a Yo Momma Monday feature so drop me a comment and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

My Healthy Journey

SONY DSCLast Wednesday, something kind of miraculous happened. I set my alarm for 8 am and I actually woke up to it! Didn’t hit the snooze button, no lying in bed listening to my alarm’s rampage – I simply just got up and put my workout clothes on. I jumped on the Wii Fit and was immediately reminded that it had been 183 days since the little Wii dude last saw me. Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m here again…punk.

After it weighed me – and confirmed my suspicions that I gained weight – it was back to the grind. Since then, I’ve gotten up every morning (sometimes a little later than 8 am, not going to lie) and did some sort of exercise before Cecilia rises. She’s a party animal and goes to sleep at midnight and wakes up around 9 or 10 am. And it is kind of nice to have a couple hours of alone time before the beautiful insanity begins.

I worked out a little schedule where I could fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day:

  • Monday: Wii Fit
  • Tues: Bodyweight Exercise
  • Wed: Wii Fit
  • Thurs: Bodyweight
  • Fri: Yoga
  • Sat: Walk around the park with Cecilia
  • Sun: Yard duty (that is truly a workout)

It has felt really good to finally get in a groove and get back in the kitchen. Those couple weeks of fast food and pizza while moving really effected us in a weird way. I’ve been using this workout for my bodyweight days and it totally kicks my butt. I know it’s not completely all bodyweight, but that’s what I’m calling it.

I also downloaded a basic shopping list from The Gracious Pantry and I’m challenging myself to use up all the produce we have here before buying new stuff so nothing goes to waste. I’m also challenging myself to add an extra exercise every week. Since I accomplished 30 minutes a day last week, this week I’m adding 15 minutes of morning yoga.

I have ten pounds until my goal weight. That’s when I’m going to go through all my old clothes one last time to see what I can keep and what I totally need to just let go. Because I have zero plans to get under 130 lbs.

Thank you for hanging out with me while I’m on this journey to good health. I’ll be sharing awesome workouts and recipes I find as I go, and post one last update when I hit my goal. If you are also on a healthy journey and want to compare notes and trade tips, share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy life

I have been wanting to get back into working out daily for a long time. And I have come up with every excuse I can squeeze out of my lips and finger tips for why I’m not doing it. I’m tired. I have no energy. I chase a toddler around every hour I’m awake – isn’t that enough? Yesterday, I decided it was time to stop excusing why I had abandoned something that I secretly loved and that pushed me to take care of myself.

I wanted to involve Cecilia in my workouts and I knew that the baby workouts I did so long ago will probably not cut it for a baby on the move – so I searched for some new exercises I could do with my girl.

Photo from Bulu Box

Photo from Bulu Box

I found this little diddy from Rena Roark on Bulu Box that has fun exercises to do with your little one all the way up to your adolescent. Crazy to think that Cecilia will eventually be an adolescent. Blasphemy! I also found a neat 28 day workout plan to do with your kid from Inspired by Familia that I’m going to give a whirl.

Now, moving on to the taste buds…I have….THIS!

Photo from Kim's Healthy Eats

Photo from Kim’s Healthy Eats

Oven Fried Pickles from Kim’s Healthy Eats paired with Clean Eating Ranch Dressing from The Gracious Pantry makes me a happy girl. I’m a sucker for fried pickles, and I was over the moon to learn there is a healthier recipe and I cannot wait to make them as an appetizer, or as dinner on a solo night.

Want to share a workout or recipe? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Google +. I love meeting new friends who are on the same journey, and I love making new discoveries – especially when they involve yoga and food!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy lifeMy efforts in maintaining a healthy life have been very lackluster lately, to say the least. It’s a lot harder than I thought to take care of a home, a cute little baby (although at 15 months, she’s a big ol baby now), keep up decent grades and start a business. Squeezing in a workout AND not over-snacking when I’m stressed? Uh…yeah right.

So, in an effort to get back in a routine and not just completely lose it, I’ve decided to slowly add little things I could do that wouldn’t be hard to maintain and would be totally beneficial to me feeling and looking good. Because it’s not all about looking good for me. I need energy to get through my day and all that pizza – though wonderful and delicious – is slowin’ me down!

Last week, I decided to start way back from the beginning and follow the Clean Eating plan on the Gracious Pantry. I picked one thing to abstain from and so far, so good. This round: no fast food. I know, I know. I’ve done it before, but like I said…I’m starting fresh. From the beginning. I started last Wednesday, so it will be two weeks next Wednesday and then I will pick another thing to abstain from.

Like I have noted before, it’s all about convenience. If I have good healthy food to eat at home, then I’ll eat that. I only succumb to the pleasures of fast food if we have nothing to eat or I don’t feel like cooking. The only issue I ran into is that I made that goal a while ago to make all my food from scratch. Which means that if I want to just whip up something quick, that probably ain’t happening.

I have read before that if you work from home, you should treat it like you are going outside of the home to work. So, that means: showering, making your own lunch and mentally preparing yourself to work. Showering sometimes happens and sometimes doesn’t but I do like the idea of making my lunch ahead of time so I don’t have to worry about it when I’m in the middle of my workday.

Image from The Sweaty Betties

Image from The Sweaty Betties

I also found a new site called The Sweaty Betties. It’s run by fitness expert Danny J and the Facebook page describes the group as “irreverent group of women who are looking to get fit & have a whole lot of fun along the way.” There is a free 12-week lifting program that you can download on the website. It’s mainly geared toward the gym so I think I will have to wait on this until I get back into the gym, but it’s worth checking out!

Photo from How Sweet Eats

Photo from How Sweet Eats

And…look at these pancakes! I have really turned into a breakfast person now that I work from home because it fuels me and gives me time to sit and think about what I need to get done, and watch my daughter play and run around the house. Because that’s my favorite. These whole wheat pancakes from How Sweet Eats look delicious and they’re healthy to boot! I think I will need to give these a try really soon. Like tomorrow soon. I’m not a fan of greek yogurt but I’m sure regular yogurt would be just fine.

So, I will continue to share some healthy inspiration each week in case you are feeling like I have been. If you have any amazing recipes or workouts/yoga to share, post a link in the comments and on my social media pages! You can find all the links on the top of my sidebar!

My Healthy Life: Banana-Blueberry Chocolate Shake Recipe

Any time I hear the words “healthy shake,” I cringe just thinking about the existence of protein powder in the drink. Protein powder is fine if that’s what you’re into, but why do you have to mess up a perfectly delightful beverage with it! So, when I saw that Laura from A Beautiful Mess posted a new healthy chocolate shake recipe, I was a little hesitant.

Photo from A Beautiful Mess

Photo from A Beautiful Mess

As it turns out, this chocolate shake had no sign of protein powder anywhere, and it was indeed – as described – healthy and delicious! I had a hankering for chocolate and knew that this was probably a better choice for me than the Girl Scout cookies I had been devouring for the last couple weeks.

I decided to add blueberries to mine, and since I was making it for someone else too (promise), I increased the portions.

  • 1 frozen, ripe banana 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cacao powder 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter (crunchy or smooth) 2 tablespoons peanut butter (it’s what I had)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk 2/3 cup coconut milk (again, what I had)
  • 1 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

I used my ghetto blender and for once – it didn’t threaten to blow up! I just blended for about two minutes until it was nice and smooth, and voila!

This banana blueberry chocolate shake was delicious. And healthy. And delicious.

This banana blueberry chocolate shake was delicious. And healthy. And delicious.

Since I used up the last of my peanut butter in recipe and I LOVE me some peanut butter, it’s the perfect time to make my own!

Do you have any recipes that are delicious and surprisingly healthy? Did you try this recipe? Share your link in the comments and on social media!

Coffee and Muffins

coffee and muffins

Last weekend, my mom and I embarked on a new challenge. We must avoid all drive-thru eateries for an entire month. This wouldn’t be difficult for me, but I have a secret addiction to drive-thru Starbucks. Because sometimes when we’re on the road, I need a coffee. And almost all the time, I don’t want to have to lug my daughter out of the car and then back into the car to get a simple coffee.

The thought of walking to a little, hidden gem of a local coffee shop is a beautiful thought, except for the fact that I live nowhere near one. When I lived in downtown Sacramento, you could just turn in any direction and point, and a coffee shop would magically appear. But this is not the case.

So, it’s time to broaden the horizons. Since I will be more dependent on my at-home coffee-making skills more than ever, I’ve come to a conclusion. It’s time to stock up on some coffee from rad coffee shops when I come across one, and then get some rad travel mugs.

Photo from Mugoos

Photo from Mugoos

First of all, I love Mary Tyler Moore. I used to watch that show on TV Land before all my of childhood shows somehow wound up there, and before there was a DVR. This coffee mug not only brings a smile to my face and brings back memories of no responsibilities, it’s also kind of a perfect quote for my life right now. This ceramic mug has a plastic lid and is double-insulated. MC Simon, who made the mug and runs Mugoos, is a mama-of-two who was welder before running her own handmade ceramic shop.

Photo from Heartbreak Coffee

Photo from Heartbreak Coffee

Heartbreak Coffee is not actually local, but I read about this online coffee shop on Design*Sponge and I fell in love with the story. She brews and sells everything from her kitchen, and the first comment on her Coming Soon post was from her mom. I mean, come on.

So, I think this would be a great time to start reviewing different coffee shops – both local and online.

And what goes better with coffee than…

IMG_1458MUFFINS!!!

I used a recipe from The Granny Girls for these apple blueberry muffins and they were delicious – and good for you! I count them as a success because my boyfriend – the enemy of all that is health food – even enjoyed them. My muffins tend to be dry, but these were simply delightful. Moist (I know, I hate that word too), and every bite was filled with fruit.

The ingredients are below and you can get the full recipe here. I’m thinking of adding bananas next time (like, tomorrow).

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup raisins or currants blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup apple juice (I didn’t have any so I used almond milk)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten (or 2 egg whites)
  • 2-3 medium apples, unpeeled, finely chopped (or grated)

What healthy steps are you taking? Share them in the comments and on social media. If you are writing about it, share the post with me! I would love to help motivate each other!

Inspired Recipe: Quinoa Lasagna

I love getting a new canvas. It’s so fresh and clean, not a speck on it. You wonder what will come of it. What will you paint? What colors will you use? How many revisions will it take until it’s just the way you want it? How long will you spend on it? I feel the same way when I find a new recipe. Something about starting from scratch, touching something that has been untouched by you until now. It’s even more exhilarating when you improvise a little to make it your own. That first bite is a mixture of agony and excitement.

And then…it’s delicious! And other people enjoy it, too!

This is what happened when I made the quinoa lasagna inspired by MJ and the Hungryman at my aunt’s last week. When I lived with my aunt a long, long time ago, I was always amazed and a little perplexed by all of the healthy food she ate. Now that I’m on my healthy journey, it’s fun to share these recipes with her – as she is part of a very small group of people I know who truly appreciate the whacky, healthy recipes I attempt.

I didn’t get a whole lot of pictures because we were busy visiting and eating. Actually, I only got one picture.

IMG_1404

The original recipe called for this:

  • 3 cups diced sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cup tomato sauce or prepared pasta sauce
  • 1 (15 oz) part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh basil
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • 1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

This is what we did:

  • 3 diced Russet potatoes – because that’s what we had
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli – again, what we had
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cup tomato sauce or prepared pasta sauce
  • 2 cups of cottage cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh basil
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano
  • A few slices of pepper jack cheese – it’s what we had, and I put pepper jack on everything so this is no surprise

Next time, I would like to make my own pasta sauce. I can’t even comprehend making my own cheese yet, so if that ever comes, it will be much later in life.

Have you ever improvised a recipe you found? How did it turn out? Success, or total failure? The next time you find a recipe that you haven’t tried due to lack of ingredients, see if you can sub in what you have. You can Google substitutions for just about everything and if you are trying to make your favorite recipe a little more healthy, you can consult The Gracious Pantry. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google + and Twitter for more healthy inspiration!