Just Eat It: Pumpkin Coffee Cake

The other day, I used Sally’s Baking Addiction’s wonderfully delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, and as per usual, they did not disappoint. Even my mom, who is a pumpkin hater, enjoyed one. The only problem with making something that calls for pumpkin puree is that if it doesn’t call for the entire can, and you’re dangerously close to grocery shopping day and therefore without foil to cover it, it gets gross after a couple days.

So after looking up pumpkin muffins and realizing I didn’t have cream cheese (again, dangerously close) and realizing I didn’t have a doughnut pan for pumpkin doughnuts or buttermilk for pumpkin doughnut muffins, I landed on a recipe I’ve used before and loved – Pumpkin Spice Coffee Cake from Joyful Healthy Eats. Her photos and step-by-step directions make it easy to follow early in the morning and before coffee.

Photo Credit: Krista / Joyful Healthy Eats

Photo Credit: Krista / Joyful Healthy Eats

And if you happen to have all the ingredients like I did (well, I had almost all of them), it’s free to make. And even if you have to pick up a couple, you’re still paying less for just one slice at any bakery or coffee shop. Here are the ingredients:

  • 2½ cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • ¾ cup of sugar
  • ¾ cup of canola or vegetable oil
  • 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
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

You can click on the photo I posted above or here for the full recipe. The only change I made is that I didn’t have pecans and I was feeling adventurous, so I used the little remainder of walnuts I had and filled the rest of the cup with pumpkin granola. I was a little nervous about how the substitution would turn out, but I really like it!

One little square filled me up enough but didn’t make me feel too full and it had just enough spice to not overwhelm people who may not enjoy pumpkin as much as I/you do. This is actually the only pumpkin recipe I can get the majority of my family to eat, especially after the pumpkin explosion that happened last year.

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My rendition. Looks a little sloppier but tastes gooood!

What are you baking? Is it a recipe shared from your family, something you created or something you found in a cookbook/blog? Share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

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!

Friday Finds

Social media can be such a time suck. I won’t say how many times I found myself staring pointlessly at a computer screen while my daughter’s napping – ignoring all the other productive things I could be doing – and that’s mostly because there are too many to count. On the more positive side, social media and networking can also open up a whole new world to you, filled with people, things and food that you were unaware that even existed. As a stay-at-home mom, I don’t get to venture out to find new things like I used to, and I rely primarily on my social feeds to deliver them right to me via my phone or computer.

Such is the case with all the finds I have for this week:

Image from Sacramento Flea Market

Image from Sacramento Flea Market

Sacramento is getting a Flea Market! Opening in January 2015, there is over 16,000 square feet of indoor and over 20,000 square feet of outside vending. There will be new and used stuff, produce, food and drinks and even live music on the weekends! Triple score! Oh, and the entrance, parking and even the concerts are all free. Yes. I’m so excited to see how this progresses and I’ve already got my list ready.

Image from Hops and Dots

Image from Hops and Dots

I am really digging how the craft beer scene in Sacramento is expanding, and this also includes craft beer bloggers. Hops and Dots is a beer blog run by Nat, who covers breweries in Sacramento and beyond. I was introduced to her blog by Beers in Sac by way of Facebook, and I’m so happy that I found it.

Image from NellieBellie

Image from NellieBellie

I spent a good while looking up sugar free cakes on Pinterest yesterday. Not because I’m on a sugar-free kick – that would mean I would have to give up the pints of ice cream and cookies I’ve been devouring lately – but because my brother can’t have sugar. And it happens to be his birthday next weekend, so I’ve decided to make him a cake. This might be the first nice thing I’ve done for him. I love this recipe from NellieBellie because I can use pumpkin (it calls for butternut squash or pumpkin – and pumpkin wins all, for me) and it’s all real ingredients – no fake sugar stuff over here! It looks super delicious.

What are your favorite finds of the week? Share them in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramGoogle + and Pinterest!

Thrifty Thursdays: A Recipe

A couple days ago, one of my really good friends Allie came up for a visit from San Francisco. She’s gearing up for a semester in Thailand in August and this just might be one of the last times I see her before she leaves. We planned on hitting downtown Roseville for a few hours but when it came down to it, we really just went to Target and Sprouts to get stuff for dinner. I’m pretty sure I ruined Sprouts forever for Allie, but it was worth the trip.

We had Mahi Mahi tacos for dinner and they were delicious! Typically I’m not a huge fish fan, I usually just like salmon or if I do have tuna, I like it fried in tempura batter and rolled up all pretty for me in a delicious sushi roll. But they were really good! We had toppings like chopped up tomatoes, pineapple, jalapeno and bell pepper, sliced avocado, shredded cabbage and lemon. It was set up like a taco bar and we served ourselves.

After dinner was over, there were still a lot of toppings leftover so I decided to make a pineapple salsa out of it. And it turned out so surprisingly delicious and refreshing, I decided to share the recipe with you guys! I don’t have all the ingredients measured out as they were just what was left over, but the cool thing about salsa is that it’s pretty forgiving, so you don’t need exact measurements and you can add or extract what you want.

IMG_2313PINEAPPLE CILANTRO SALSA

  • Chopped pineapple
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chopped bell pepper
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chopped jalapeno
  • Sliced avocado
  • Squirt of lime for preservation

I just threw all the ingredients into the blender and hoped for the best! Mine turned out a little thick and chunky, which is perfect because that’s how I like my salsa. You can blend it more or less, depending on how you like your salsa. It’s a crisp and refreshing, and there’s some spice from the jalapeno and some sweet from the pineapple. Perfect for the summer!

I enjoyed it so much, I put it on my black bean tacos and used it as a dip for my chips the next day. Yeah, tacos are big around here.

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Still trying to grasp food photography, obviously. This was just a quickie I snapped while trying to fend the dog and baby off my food.

Do you have a favorite salsa recipe to share? Did you give this one a try? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Stay thrifty, my friends.

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.

My Healthy Life: A Journey

Well, I’m exactly one week away from two things I have been looking forward to – my birthday, and my goal date for my weight loss. They happen to fall on the same day, and that is no coincidence. I was hoping to reach 130 by my 31st birthday and kept assuring myself the whole time that I could most definitely do it. And I probably could have…if I locked myself in my room with a mini fridge filled with only the healthiest and best food, and my only activity to do during the day was to exercise.

But, let’s face it. Real life happens…and sometimes your best intentions fall short. I will say that I am proud that I have not only lost all the weight gained during my pregnancy, I am between five – ten pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant. Sure, I still have 15 lbs to go before I reach my goal weight, but I have had the willpower to turn down fast food and soda, when both are so easy…and sometimes so good.

I have put myself on a workout regimen, and sometimes I actually stick to it. But sometimes I don’t, because I’m freaking tired after chasing around my daughter, and sometimes I count mopping my floor (so what if my mop is actually a Swiffer) and doing laundry as my workout for the day.

18ac2a84412a11e3b44322000a1f92df_8My morning walk with my daughter. My favorite workout routine

So, I’m going to make a proclamation for myself, and if you would like to join in, I would love your company:

  • No more following websites that have the word “Skinny” in them. I don’t want to be skinny. I just want to wear my old jeans. Not the jeans I was wearing before I got pregnant. The jeans I wore when I was at my most comfortable weight. Sure, my hips have expanded. Babies will do that to ya. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. But damn did it feel good to put on a pair of jeans I have not been able to wear in over a year.
  • While on that note, no more pinning “Skinny” recipes on Pinterest. If you haven’t heard this before, most of the skinny ingredients are worse than the real thing. Look at the ingredients and decide if you really want all of that in your body. If you do, go for it. If not, put it down. It ain’t worth it in the long run.
  • Follow bloggers and recipe developers who use real ingredients for all of their food. They don’t do a diet version, because they don’t need to. You don’t need a diet version of granola – it’s granola! A good site I just found today is A Sweet Spoonful. Her recipes have real ingredients in them, and most of them aren’t crazy. Check out these pumpkin spice muffins (you know how I feel about pumpkins). She also has a book called Whole Grain Mornings – I think the title says it all – that will be available on Dec 31. You can pre-order it now through Amazon, and it will be perfect for your New Years Resolution, if you’re about that.
  • Remain active. Even if I can’t get a workout or yoga session in, I remain active. I sit at my computer to write blog posts, and do some work. But I take a break after every project I work on to go walking with my daughter, to play with her, or to clean my house. It keeps her entertained and happy, and I stay active. We hardly ever sit down to watch TV until after dinner. Because that’s my family time, and that’s how we like to relax.

I’m still going to work on my goal, but I’m not going to hate myself if I don’t get in that 15 minute yoga session, and then 15 minutes of bodyweight workout, and then 15 minutes of yoga at night. Because sometimes I’m just tired. And I have other stuff going on. But I will (attempt to) drink all of my water, and I will cook real food for my family. Because not only do I want to look good in my jeans, I want to feel good, too.

2b58fe7e3ff311e38f8522000a1fb838_8Homemade apple butter on wheat toast with banana. Breakfast is served.

Here is my promise to you, and this is one I can stick to. I will continue to share sites with you that I feel good about sharing. I will continue to show you new recipes that incorporate real, healthy food. I won’t ever share anything that has the word Skinny in it. Unless I have checked the ingredients and they are all real. That’s my only exception.

So, to start things off. Here are some of my favorite sites that embrace whole foods and healthy living:

The Gracious PantryIf you have read my blog just once in your life, you probably know how deep my love for this site runs. Tiffany not only shares a whole bunch of clean eating (the elimination of processed foods in your diet) recipes, she also advises on healthy food substitution, like the sugar substitution chart, and she loves pumpkin, too. My kind of girl.

Healthy Aperture – Healthy food photo sharing site. A good way to find recipes that you will love and continue to use, and you can also find new healthy bloggers to follow. If you find yourself liking a bunch of recipes from one poster, maybe you should check out their site and see what else they have. There’s also a blog with healthy tips and recipes.

Attune Foods Blog – This is a new one that I found today, through Sweet Spoonful. It’s a healthy recipe sharing site, and you can also join the FitClean community, which focuses on incorporating both fitness and clean eating in your daily life.

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.