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!

Monday Inspiration

Monday Inspiration

Whenever I’m feeling down and out, I always find a little light when I log in to my social media sites and see all the wonderful things people are doing. Whether it’s making a new recipe from scratch, finishing a long-time project or visiting an amazing city, there is always something to lift my spirits.

And then it hit me. While I wholeheartedly encourage seeking inspiration from others when you are feeling overwhelmed or just plain out of it, why aren’t I looking inside myself for inspiration? Why aren’t I amazing myself? I could do all of these things (aside from traveling, that will just have to wait), I just need to make time for them. So what’s my excuse?

I will have to say, I did make a few meals from scratch last week, and we were able to eat leftovers throughout the week. But then by Friday, it all came to a halt. I got exhausted and just couldn’t push myself to create. So I’ve gone over what was bothering me, what made me feel so uninspired, and I made a list of how to fix it. I absolutely love making lists. I don’t always follow them, but I do love to make them.

Image from Huffington Post. Lots of good positive mantras in that post.

Image from Huffington Post. Lots of good positive mantras in that post.

Then I made myself a daily schedule and now I’m working on a weekly meal plan. It’s all totally boring stuff and I feel sort of silly writing about it on my blog. But it’s a part of life and I can pretty much guarantee I’m not the only one who has felt like this. So while I don’t want to write out every detail, here is what I have planned out:

  • Write daily. Whether it’s on my blog or in my little journal, just write.
  • Cook something new and fun when I can. Find new recipes and experiment a little. Mix it up a bit. Share what I cook online.
  • Work out 30 minutes a day and practice yoga at least once a day. It’s insane how much energy I get from working out, and I always feel invigorated after doing yoga. These simple things change everything, but I never make time for them.
  • Set aside 4-6 hrs a day for school work, depending on what I have. Turn everything off so I just have that to concentrate on. Of course I will take time for baby breaks, but that’s it.
  • Schedule more Pampered Chef parties and start selling more of my stuff online
  • An hour a day on creative art stuff. It’s something that I love doing, but never give myself the time to do it.

I got inspired to work on this list after I read a little something from Danny J – who runs The Sweaty Betties – about not making any more excuses and making goals and sticking to them. So I hope I can inspire someone as well. I’m going to turn this into a little self-spring cleaning. Spring cleaning of the soul, maybe?

Share any of our Monday inspiration in the comments and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google +. I plan on sharing more of what inspires me and makes me happy in my own daily life.

*Photo of beautiful flowers from Pretty Stuff – by Patterson Maker

Things Worth Celebrating

ThingsWorthCelebrating_700pxWhen I signed up for the Things Worth Celebrating Community Blog Tour with Petit Cadeau, I was racking my brain for things that would be worth celebrating on my blog. I ultimately decided that the little things we celebrate every day (like when Cecilia naps for longer than 30 minutes, or she eats all of her baby food) just wouldn’t make the cut, so therefore – I didn’t really have a lot to write about.

Then, we rented Dallas Buyers Club last night – it’s about a cowboy who found out he had HIV and eventually exploited the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and Doctors. It’s crazy to imagine that this was a true story, and I knew how much I was into it, because for once – I didn’t fall asleep in the middle of it, even if it was way past my bedtime. It got me thinking, there is something worth celebrating and it happens every day – life!

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I’m in the middle of so many things that haven’t come to fruition yet, but I hadn’t yet realized how wonderful it is to be involved in so much. I didn’t realize how lucky I was to stress about school, to worry about if my businesses will thrive or not, and how unbelievably happy I was that the only thing I have to worry about with my daughter is if she will sleep good for me and eat her food.

I don’t have to worry about living with something that is slowly killing me or anyone in my family. I don’t have to worry about medications, or where my next meal will come from. All the things I have to worry about are good things. They mean progress, and they mean that we’re doing alright.

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The other night, I was banging my head on the table and eating as many Samoas (I will never refer to them as Carmel Delites) as I could possibly shove in my mouth because of my project for school. I was making a DIY photo box for school and I suddenly realized how useful this will be to me, and instead of fighting it so much – I should embrace the lesson and take all from it that I can. I should celebrate the fact that I’m in school, learning about a field I hope to work in for a long time.

Another school assignment I did that I loved

Another school assignment I did that I loved

And as stressful as house hunting can be, I’m happy and grateful to have a home to hunt. We should be embracing the hunt, not fighting it. This will be the home that we will raise our family in, where we will make memories that will last forever and a place that we can make – and call – our own.

And finally, even though my businesses are not thriving right now, I should be grateful to have the opportunity to start a business from home. I should be celebrating the fact that I have a supportive boyfriend and family who make it possible for me to do this. I should be more fearless with my business choices, and I should make the most of it. Take this time to focus on making a prosperous life for me and family. I should definitely celebrate that I am working with one of my best friends. Not a whole lot of people can say that.

IMG_0768So, today I’m celebrating the good worries and the good stresses. Because they mean forward movement. I’m not saying that I will never get stressed out again. We all do. It’s a part of life. But instead of being stuck in that negative place, it’s always good to think about what worries and stresses you, and see the good in it. Because, for the most part, there’s always good in it.

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy life

I don’t know about you, but my interwebs are a buzzin’ with inspirational quotes, healthy recipes mixed with Valentines Day recipes, fitness challenges and organizational tips. So it’s no surprise that this post is going to be a little of all of that, minus the Valentines Day recipes and tips on organizing.

Photo from Erin Motz Yoga

Photo from Erin Motz Yoga

The 10-day ab challenge from Erin Motz Yoga is already in full swing, but the awesome thing about her challenges is that you can join in at any time. The videos remain on YouTube and while you won’t get the daily e-mails sent to your inbox, you will still get to check in daily, or as much as you wish. I always love doing her practices because they are lighthearted and fun, and chances are she will virtually toast you with champagne when the challenge is over.

Photo from Greatist

Photo from Greatist

You know all those detox cleanses that everyone posts the day after New Years? Well, this ain’t it. Over at Greatist, Sophia Breene has compiled a list of 49 satisfying yet detoxifying meals, and even better – categorizes them by meal type. Of course, you can eat these at any meal (for instance, I’m a huge fan of breakfast for dinner when nobody else is home), but the categories make it easy. There’s 8 breakfast options, 10 lunch options, 9 dinner options, 8 snack options and plenty of sides and drink options. You could easily use one recipe per day for 2 weeks (minus the weekends) and eat something new every day. My tip? Pick the recipes you want and make a grocery list of everything. Then do all your shopping in one trip and make a meal plan.

Photo from Greatist

Photo from Greatist

And I know I have talked about this before, but if you haven’t checked out Greatist’s Renew Year challenge, you definitely should. Each day, they post a new task and then you snap a photo and post it with the hashtag #healthyishappy. And don’t worry, not all of them are centered around exercise. One task was to write five things you’re grateful for, and another was to meditate for 10 minutes. It’s all about focusing on your health – mental and physical.

Are there any interesting challenges you’re participating in this year? Share them in the comments and on all the social media channels with the hashtag #newyearchallenge. You can connect with me by clicking on any of the social media buttons at the top of my blog.