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

Today I woke up and realized that I did not write all week. I knew something felt a little funny. It’s a continuous process to get in a routine, and I’m trying again to write at least once a day. So, I’m starting fresh and sharing some cool things I found just surfing my Facebook news feed. All the times I’ve threatened canceling my account, I continue to keep it open because with every negative post I see, there is an explosion of inspiration. I’ve learned to just stay on my page and visit the pages I like than to get caught up in the drama of Facebook. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So, today’s Thrifty Thursday post is a little mix of craft, food and skincare. There’s something for everyone!

Photo from The Paper Mama

Photo from The Paper Mama

First, can we all agree that this Macrame Plant Hanger from The Paper Mama is equally as cute as the planter? It only cost Chelsey $5 to make the plant hanger, and she shared her whole tutorial on Better Homes & Gardens. You can also find a tutorial for her planter in her e-book, which I purchased last year, and am totally in love with.

Image from Greatist

Image from Greatist

I love when Greatist posts stuff like 400+ Cheap and Healthy Recipes, because it challenges the preconception that eating healthy has to be expensive. As long as you have some fruit, veggies, protein and grain…you can make some pretty healthy stuff. They have it broken down it the basic categories – breakfast, lunch, dinner, soup and more. I’ve been getting pretty bored of my normal everyday eats, so I love finding new recipes to test.

Photo from Offbeat and Inspired

Photo from Offbeat and Inspired

I always save tutorials and recipes for sugar/salt scrubs, but I have yet to actually make one. What’s up with that? So I’m saving this DIY Citrus Salt Scrub recipe from Offbeat + Inspired in hopes that I’ll actually use it. I got some essential oils for the candle kit that I was obsessed with getting but still haven’t made anything. With it already feeling like the middle of summer outside and spending my days watching my daughter float around in our inflatable pool, my skin has been angry with me. So this might just give it the love it needs.

Photo from Love & Olive Oil

Photo from Love & Olive Oil

And what is more perfect in the summer heat than ice cream?! Especially this Dark Chocolate Strawberry Ice Cream recipe from Love & Olive Oil. You will need an ice cream maker to make this, so if you have one already…then check out this recipe. I pretty much love anything with dark chocolate and strawberries in it, so I need to buy an ice cream maker to make this. Not very thrifty, but hey…

IMG_2252And finally, check out this children’s china cabinet I got from the Sacramento Antique Faire on Sunday! It was marked down from $50 to $30 and it just needs a little love before it’s perfect! Cecilia already has a bunch of kitchen trinkets to fill it up with so she can work on her masterpiece while I’m in the kitchen.

Do you have a thrifty tutorial, recipe or purchase you want to share? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google + and Pinterest!

Stay thrifty, my friends.

 

My Healthy Life: A Recipe

my healthy life

Last week, I decided to try the Vegetarian Lentil Soup that I shared from Relishing It. Turns out, I didn’t have all the ingredients listed in the recipe. Also, I might have forgotten that I needed to cook the dry lentils before adding them to the soup, which led to quite the experiment in lentil extraction. Needless to say, I had to improvise a little. And the soup turned out good. So good, in fact, that I decided to share my version of the recipe with you.

image

  • 2 cups dry brown lentils, rinsed – let’s not revisit the lentil mishap
  • 2/3 cup dry red beans (or 1 can), rinsed – (1) 16.5 oz can of kidney beans – don’t drain it
  • 2/3 cup dry black beans (or 1 can), rinsed – (1) 16.5 oz can of black beans – again, don’t drain
  • (1) 16.5 oz can of pinto beans – you catch my drift
  • 4 potatoes – peeled and diced
  • 1 cup of carrots – chopped
  • 2 celery stalks – chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart puréed or crushed tomatoes
  • 1 quart vegetable broth (or use chicken, if you’re not trying to stay vegetarian)
  • 1 heaping cup frozen corn – (1) 16.5 oz can of corn
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • juice of one lime
  • handful of spinach
  • scallions, jalapeños, sour cream (if vegan isn’t your aim) and limes as garnish options

The taco seasoning recipe is below. After all the lentil drama, I was pretty beat. So, I did a few shakes of:

  • ground cumin
  • paprika
  • garlic powder
  • chili powder
  • allspice
  • salt
  • black pepper

For the Taco Seasoning:

(makes a scant 1/2 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

You can find the entire recipe by visiting Relishing It here. I did not use a dutch oven – just a regular soup pot. I threw the potatoes and carrots in first, since they take the longest, and I threw everything else in as I chopped it. I also topped mine with fresh avocado…which of course was perfect…because it’s avocado. We decided that, again, it could use a little more of a kick so I will add some chilli peppers next time. We also reheated it up today and threw in a cup of rice to add a little variety to it. Few days later, and it was still just as good and hearty. I love soup season!

Do you have a favorite healthy soup recipe? Or did you give this one a go? Share in the comments and on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #myhealthylife. You can also find more healthy inspiration on my Pinterest! I will continue to share more recipes, exercises and blogs that I find awesome and worthy of sharing…so please let me know of any that you would love to see on the blog!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy life

With a couple birthdays in one week, it has been a little challenging staying on track with my healthy plan. But, I told myself a long time ago that I would not force myself to be perfect 100% of the time. Sometimes your family will have Mexican food multiple times in one week, and heck…you might feel rebellious and go for the beans and Spanish rice. As long as it doesn’t become a normal thing, and you stay active…you will be just fine. This is preparation for Thanksgiving, anyway. That said, between chasing after my baby and going on weekly walks with my friend, I haven’t seen an increase in my weight. Hooray for that!

Since this is the perfect weather for some soup, I thought I would share a couple healthy soup recipes that I got from Greatist the other day. I love soup so much, and it’s an easy way to stay healthy. The only issue can be making sure you get enough flavor. I’m pretty stoked to give these recipes a try.

Photo from Cookin Canuck

Photo from Cookin Canuck

Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash and Quinoa from Cookin Canuck – I’m literally staring at my butternut squash that I haven’t had a chance to do anything with, so this would be the perfect recipe for that. I also have some quinoa that I am always trying to hide in our meals, so it’s a double bonus! I have shared a recipe from Cookin Canuck before, so obviously I’m already a fan.

Photo from Relishing It

Photo from Relishing It

Vegetarian Lentil Taco Soup from Relishing It – I must admit, after being a vegetarian for several years (I had to stop when I got pregnant due to some issues I had and now cooking for two meat lovers, I’m vegetarian for 2/3 meals), it can be hard to get flavor out of vegetarian soups. But this taco soup looks delicious, and I think the boys might even eat it, too. Once I saw the jalapenos and cilantro, I knew I would be good. Laurie, who runs Relishing It, is a mama of two, a foodie and an organic cook. She has a lot of good recipes on her blog!

While I was on Greatist’s site, I found a Here’s to Healthy contest, that you can enter right now. All you have to do is follow Greatist on Pinterest (done) and pin things that inspire you on their #healthyishappy board (um, done). Click on the “Here’s to Healthy” link to enter!

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.

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.

DSC02668

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.