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 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!

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!

Yo Momma Monday: Stefanie Schiada

yo momma monday

Stefanie Schiada, 36, is a home design blogger who started the very popular Brooklyn Limestone in the midst of her recent home renovation. She is a world traveler who calls Brooklyn, NY her home and she is mama to a beautiful one-year-old named Agatha Grace.

Stefanie started Brooklyn Limestone to document the renovation of her 100-year-old limestone in – you guessed it – Brooklyn. Now, her blog includes entertaining, design, travel and decor. Since Stefanie does not receive her primary income from her blog or graphic design site (she works in finance), she keeps the blogging to the weekends.

Stefanie admits that she never wanted to add a personal side to her blog. She was simply going to document her renovation, post some photos and hopefully make a photo book out of it when she was done. Two years later, she finally showed her “mug” and more personal details about her and her family.

Stefanie and Agatha at Agatha's first birthday! Photo taken by Stefanie's brother.

Stefanie and Agatha at Agatha’s first birthday! Photo by Stefanie’s brother.

Before she moved into this house, she and her husband lived in a much smaller house and did room-by-room renovations. Now, she “just takes a lot more photos.” Stefanie says she has been interested in the DIY process for as long as she can remember.

“I think I’ve always been a little on the cheap side which definitely makes me ask the question “can I do this myself?” and “can I do it better?”.”

Stefanie says she gets her inspiration from all the places she visits, and trips to the home improvement store can also get her creative juices flowing. “Sometimes a pile of wood can really spark the imagination.” She also searches for items that she knows she won’t tire of quickly.

Just a little snippet of the renovation that was done. Clearly, she doesn't mess around! Photo taken by Stefanie Schiada

Just a little snippet of the renovation that was done. Clearly, she doesn’t mess around! Photo by Stefanie Schiada

“While I always seem to have one project or another going, I don’t really want to have to change things out unless I’m in the mood.”

The experience Stefanie has with being a tourist – mixed with her knowledge and love of her city – has led her to create a downloadable one-day tourist guide for people who are visiting Brooklyn. Now, this was back in 2009 so I’m sure some stuff has changed, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you are going to be visiting.

In fact, she loves her city so much that she had a hard time picking just one thing that she loves the most about it.

The beautiful house when the decorated it for the holidays. So magical!

The beautiful house when the decorated it for the holidays. So magical! Photo by Stefanie Schiada

“If I had to pick a favorite its having the variety of choice here in eating and shopping.”

And in all of her travels, Stefanie says that her safari in Africa stands out from the rest, and says it’s hard to compare it to any other destination. Stefanie has even taken on the daunting task of traveling with her daughter – something I have yet to do.

“I’m a pessimist so the reality is much easier than I imagined.  Obviously so much depends on the temperament of the baby and the parents but we have found that its not that different than spending time with her in a restaurant or any other public place.  The key is just to GO!”

Asam Church in Munich, Germany

Asam Church in Munich, Germany. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

As a new mom, Stefanie wrote a post titled “Things I Wish I Knew Before Bringing Home Baby,” and man, could I relate. That post hit so close to home that I felt like I wrote it, and it is actually what pushed me to contact Stefanie about the interview. If you are a new mom, or you have been one before, you should read this. Trust me, you will have yourself a good laugh.

“My advice would be to not be so hard on yourself.  I think our generation of parents put this incredible burden on ourselves about creating the absolute perfect environment for our children (breastfeeding exclusively, organic only diet, educational toys, etc.) that cutting yourself any slack at all (no matter how much you are trying!) feels like a big failure.  

I know I cried many tears on countless subjects (especially about nursing!) that seemed absolutely crucial at the time but even  with just the little time I’ve had to think about it, its just not that important in the scheme of thing.  Its hard to remind yourself you are doing your absolute best and you are allowed to enjoy it too.”

Photo from Agatha's Christening Party, which Stefanie styled. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

Photo from Agatha’s Christening Party, which Stefanie styled. Photo by Stefanie Schiada

Stefanie recently planned her daughter’s first birthday and shared her experience and photos from the party on her blog. Since it was smack-dab in the middle of winter, and they live in New York, Stefanie came up with the “Baby It’s Cold Outside” theme, and beautiful decorations that fit perfectly with the theme.

“Don’t be ashamed to go over the top!  I love parties where you can see the host put a lot of time and effort into all of the elements and didn’t take the easy way out.  As a guest, it feels like you are part of something special.”

Thank you so much Stefanie for participating in this series! You can find photos from her travels and get tips here, and you can find party ideas here.  If you are looking for home renovation and design tips, just peruse all over her blog! And don’t skip this About page – it’s where she shares a lot of her tips and answers FAQs. Want an overload of inspiration – and adorableness? Check out her Flickr!

If you enjoy this series and would like to be a part of it, or know someone who should, please leave a note in the comments or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Pinterest and Instagram. Next month, I will be talking with Karen LePage of One Girl Circus!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy lifeSo, today is my birthday! Hooray! It’s also my goal date for my weight loss, and I’m about 14 lbs from it. Obviously, I’m not going to lose 14.5 lbs today, but that does not mean that I’m not proud of what I have done. Although I have cheat days, I focus on eating whole, clean food that makes me feel good when I eat it. I have started a yoga routine, and sometimes I’m even able to fit in a work out.

I’m able to wear some of my old clothes, and I was able to store some clothes that were just too big, and that feels so good. Sometimes when I’m showing Cecilia herself in the mirror, I catch a glimpse of myself and I’m comfortable with what I see. So even though the scale may not be showing the results I was hoping for, I can already see the improvement in my confidence and personality.

And it’s not just the weight loss. I feel a lot healthier than I did before. I can chase my daughter all over the backyard and not feel winded. I have learned how to bake and cook because of this journey, and I have saved my family a lot of money because we don’t go out to eat all the time like we used to. I have done it all just by eating better and working out. I did not take a magic pill, or limit myself to shakes. No crazy diets…just eating better and remaining active.

Wanting to step up my game a little, I decided to take a Core Strength Yoga Class from Sadie Nardini. Let’s just say that it was a 30 minute class, and I lasted 15 minutes. I was happy to hear my daughter cry when she woke up, so I could pretend that’s why I had to stop. If you want a yoga class to make you cry, check her out. I’m pretty sure I threw my back out, but I’m going to try it again this weekend to see how far I can get without injuring myself.

Photo from Sadie Nardini. Talk about a badass yogi

Photo from Sadie Nardini. Talk about a badass yogi

Yesterday, I wanted to find a low-impact workout since I was still feeling messed up from that yoga class and walking over 2 miles to find the Sacramento Antique Fair (one could say I really love antiques), so I found a good pilates class…and I think I’m in love. The class was a 15 minute beginner class so it was perfect for me, and it’s through Pilatesology. You can sign up for $19 a month and can opt for a 10 day free trial if you want to test drive before you buy.

Photo from Pilatesology

Photo from Pilatesology

I also made this pumpkin turkey chilli from The Gracious Pantry, but used potatoes instead of turkey. I added a couple cups of water to help soften the potatoes, but that is really up to you. I absolutely loved the way it turned out. My soups usually lack flavor, but not this one. The coconut milk was perfect for this recipe, and added a lot of spice and flavor. Next, I’m going to make it hotter by adding some chili peppers.

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And finally, I wanted to share something I found on Greatist yesterday. It’s a list of 50 bloggers making a difference in fitness, health and happiness…and it’s definitely worth checking out. The bloggers are all listed by category and you can click on their names to be directed to their site. I’m going to go through the list and will share some of the bloggers that I find inspirational and awesome.

Image from Greatist

Image from Greatist

Are you ready to take this pledge with me? To include healthy and real ingredients in our food and to remain active – no matter what the activity is? I would love to get this healthy party going. I will be sharing more and more healthy recipes, workouts and yoga routines that I feel are worth sharing, and introducing more real food bloggers. If you would like to join me on this journey, I would love to have you. Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest and share your journey with me by using the hashtag #myhealthylife or tag me in the post.