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!

Thrifty Thursdays: A Recipe

Ever since I met the coffee cake at Starbucks a long, long time ago, I have been a fan. Sweet, but not too sweet and moist and delicious. I love everything about it. A few months ago, when I was about to hit up the drive-thru Starbucks for a taste of that sweet delight, I made an instantaneous decision that changed my life forever. I swerved out of the drive-thru entrance and decided I would make one of my own.

I found this Pumpkin Spice Coffee Cake from Joyful Healthy Eats and I haven’t looked back. My taste-testing team (AKA my family) has crowned this the best dessert I’ve made thus far.

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Here are the ingredients and you can get the full recipe by visiting Joyful Healthy Eats.

  • 2½ cups of all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat)
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • ¾ cup of canola or vegetable oil (I used olive oil because it was all I had)
  • 1 teaspoon of pumpkin spice seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • ¾ cup of milk
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup of finely chopped pecans (I used walnuts – all I had)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • I also added dark chocolate chips, because I pretty much add them to anything

I have deemed this recipe thrifty because it has saved me from many a trip to Starbucks (or any coffee house for that matter), which has saved me a lot of money. I also had all the ingredients at my house (yes, I always have pumpkin puree, I don’t care what season we are in) so it was free for me to make.

I do want to look for a spring/summer inspired coffee cake recipe, but for now…this one is perfect. Especially warmed up the next day and served with a cup of coffee.

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And…yes. I officially have matching dishes. I’m a grown-up now.

Do you have any good coffee cake recipes? Anything that saves you from a trip to the coffee house/bakery? Share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Stay thrifty, my friends.

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!

My February Wishes

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Design by me

Beautiful balloon photo from AC Photo. Words by me

Wow, that first week of school was brutal. It made me question if I really wanted to be in design school a couple times. But, I stuck it out, completed all of the crazy assignments I had and now I’m ready to conquer another week. Also, if I dropped out, I would have to pay back all of my college loan now – so that’s a surefire way to keep me in school. I see why they do that now.

The more that I think about it, the more I realize how similar that is to running your own business. Or anything, really. When you put all of your time and effort into something, when you truly believe in and want to accomplish something, you stick with it. When you invest money, or you are borrowing money (bank, school, parents, friends) and you have to pay it all back immediately if you just back out, you stick with it.

I have stuck with the things that are most important to me, and I have let go of things that would not be the best for me now. Maybe sometime in the future, but definitely not now. So, I am finally focusing on the things that matter, and I am fearless in pursuing what I love.

I have categorized each aspect of my life I need to focus on, and here’s what I want to accomplish this month:

Blog: The transfer to a self-hosted site is happening on the 15th and I could not be more thrilled. I need to organize my blog better and get rid of what has little or no importance at this point. This transfer is the perfect time to let go and start fresh. I will have a couple sponsors when I move over and I’m hoping to be at ten by June. So my goal for this month is just to get my new site up and running and add the sponsors I do have.

Vox: The fundraiser is happening in May. We have the time and place set, now I just need to come up with a name, and start working on all of our promotional stuff. We need to visit local businesses and get the community involved. So, this month I will focus on spreading the word.

Sweet Mariposa: We are going to get a booth at the Vox fundraiser and we have a couple other shops who want us to vend at their Second Saturday street walks, and maybe even sell a few items in their stores. So, this month we’re focusing on adding to our inventory. I hope to get at least one new item in the shop each week this month. I also have a few people who want me to sell things for them on eBay, so this will be the perfect way for me to get more comfortable on the site.

Pampered Chef: I would love to get four parties under my belt this month, one each week. I already have three people who want to host, I just need one more. This is going to be the perfect way to get me cooking and baking more, and to get me used to talking to a bunch of people at one time. I’m used to writing – not talking – to a large number of people at once.

Health : My mom and I started a new health challenge (I will talk more about this tomorrow), and our challenge for this week is no drive-thru. This should not be too hard for me, except for when it comes to my coffee. I must admit, when I’m driving, I have a problem with going through Starbucks to get my coffee fix. This will motivate me to go find more little coffee shops in town and not depend on the drive-thru Starbucks that’s just down the street. When I lived downtown, it was easy for me to just walk to a little coffee shop to get my fix, but here…it’s a little harder. I make my coffee at home, too, but I like a little pick-me-up when I’m out and about.

So, this should be good for the month. I’ll be writing more about each of these in detail during the week, I just need to remember to stick with what I love, and let go of the rest. It will save me time and unnecessary stress. What are you working on this month – what are your goals? Share them in the comments and on your social media sites. If you wrote about it, share the link with me so I can see! It’s a wonderful way to check yourself, and get support from others.