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 Journey

SONY DSCLast Wednesday, something kind of miraculous happened. I set my alarm for 8 am and I actually woke up to it! Didn’t hit the snooze button, no lying in bed listening to my alarm’s rampage – I simply just got up and put my workout clothes on. I jumped on the Wii Fit and was immediately reminded that it had been 183 days since the little Wii dude last saw me. Yeah, I know. That’s why I’m here again…punk.

After it weighed me – and confirmed my suspicions that I gained weight – it was back to the grind. Since then, I’ve gotten up every morning (sometimes a little later than 8 am, not going to lie) and did some sort of exercise before Cecilia rises. She’s a party animal and goes to sleep at midnight and wakes up around 9 or 10 am. And it is kind of nice to have a couple hours of alone time before the beautiful insanity begins.

I worked out a little schedule where I could fit in at least 30 minutes of exercise a day:

  • Monday: Wii Fit
  • Tues: Bodyweight Exercise
  • Wed: Wii Fit
  • Thurs: Bodyweight
  • Fri: Yoga
  • Sat: Walk around the park with Cecilia
  • Sun: Yard duty (that is truly a workout)

It has felt really good to finally get in a groove and get back in the kitchen. Those couple weeks of fast food and pizza while moving really effected us in a weird way. I’ve been using this workout for my bodyweight days and it totally kicks my butt. I know it’s not completely all bodyweight, but that’s what I’m calling it.

I also downloaded a basic shopping list from The Gracious Pantry and I’m challenging myself to use up all the produce we have here before buying new stuff so nothing goes to waste. I’m also challenging myself to add an extra exercise every week. Since I accomplished 30 minutes a day last week, this week I’m adding 15 minutes of morning yoga.

I have ten pounds until my goal weight. That’s when I’m going to go through all my old clothes one last time to see what I can keep and what I totally need to just let go. Because I have zero plans to get under 130 lbs.

Thank you for hanging out with me while I’m on this journey to good health. I’ll be sharing awesome workouts and recipes I find as I go, and post one last update when I hit my goal. If you are also on a healthy journey and want to compare notes and trade tips, share in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest!

My Healthy Life: A Journey

my healthy life

I have been wanting to get back into working out daily for a long time. And I have come up with every excuse I can squeeze out of my lips and finger tips for why I’m not doing it. I’m tired. I have no energy. I chase a toddler around every hour I’m awake – isn’t that enough? Yesterday, I decided it was time to stop excusing why I had abandoned something that I secretly loved and that pushed me to take care of myself.

I wanted to involve Cecilia in my workouts and I knew that the baby workouts I did so long ago will probably not cut it for a baby on the move – so I searched for some new exercises I could do with my girl.

Photo from Bulu Box

Photo from Bulu Box

I found this little diddy from Rena Roark on Bulu Box that has fun exercises to do with your little one all the way up to your adolescent. Crazy to think that Cecilia will eventually be an adolescent. Blasphemy! I also found a neat 28 day workout plan to do with your kid from Inspired by Familia that I’m going to give a whirl.

Now, moving on to the taste buds…I have….THIS!

Photo from Kim's Healthy Eats

Photo from Kim’s Healthy Eats

Oven Fried Pickles from Kim’s Healthy Eats paired with Clean Eating Ranch Dressing from The Gracious Pantry makes me a happy girl. I’m a sucker for fried pickles, and I was over the moon to learn there is a healthier recipe and I cannot wait to make them as an appetizer, or as dinner on a solo night.

Want to share a workout or recipe? Post in the comments and connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Google +. I love meeting new friends who are on the same journey, and I love making new discoveries – especially when they involve yoga and food!

My Healthy Life: A Manifesto

my healthy life

Before writing this post, I thought I would revisit what I wrote around this time last year. I had just signed up for Weight Watchers again, and had already lost close to 20 lbs since having my baby (she was a month old at the time – crazy to imagine, eh). Since then, I have made some major changes.

While Weight Watchers totally kicked my butt into gear and helped me learn from the food and activity choices I was making, I have opted for a complete lifestyle change and ultimately chose a route where I wouldn’t have to pay a monthly fee to be told how to eat. I also was not completely behind the idea where you get count points based on caloric intake – tricking people into believing that diet food is healthier for you, when it can often be worse.

I don’t want to focus on consuming diet food, but rather consuming food that is real, whole, good for you and delicious. My healthy goals for this year are to: workout for 30 minutes per day, practice yoga for 30 minutes a day and cook all of our meals from scratch. Sure, there will be times where we go out to eat. I am in no way perfect when it comes to my diet, and I think 99% of people can agree with that. But I will be more conscious when I do go out to eat. That’s all you gotta do. Be conscious.

I also want to focus more on remixing recipes by substituting good, healthy ingredients where they are needed and I will continue sharing my concoctions with you.

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In case you are also resolving to get more fitness and healthy food in your life for the next year, here are a few websites that really helped me last year:

  • Greatist: This is one of the first websites I got into when I started this health kick. I attempted many a health challenge through Greatist, and while I barely ever stuck with them – I learned a lot and I love how proactive and fun the writers are. They actually created Renew Year, where they post new challenges each morning and you share on Twitter when you complete the challenge with the hashtag #healthyishappy. I love it!
  • The Gracious Pantry – This is by far one of my favorite sites and has truly motivated me to keep eating real and good food. Her recipes are all clean and she has good ones! My family loves every recipe I make…and that is really saying a lot. Because they hate anything with the word healthy in it.
  • DoYouYoga.com – I love this yoga site, and I love Erin Motz. She always makes yoga practice fun, and they’re always adding new videos. She has really inspired me to pursue a yoga instructor certification, and that is one of my goals now.
  • Fitness Blender – I found this couple through YouTube, and I love their workouts. They’re quick, but get the job done. They also do different challenges that you can join in, and they often post videos talking about nutrition and health – which I love. It’s not about being skinny for them, it’s about being healthy.

While you may not be on your A-game all the time, as long as you are eating good food and remaining active, you’ll be fine. I promise.  Let’s do this not to be skinny – let’s do it to be healthy. Most of all, let’s DO IT.

Have you made a resolution to be more healthy in 2014? Did you write about it? Share your link in the comments and post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google + with the hashtag #myhealthylife. You can also find more healthy inspiration on my Pinterest. Cheers to healthy and happy new year!

My Healthy Life: A Recipe!

my healthy life

My favorite time of year starts around October 24. Everyone is getting ready for Halloween, and the pumpkin craze is full steam ahead. People don’t look at me weird for adding pumpkin to everything I make and fall is finally in full force. I used to love summer. Now I loathe it, because my daughter gets wayyy too hot if we take her outside, so we’re like little recluses in our house.

With the Holidays surrounding us, it can be rather difficult to maintain your diet. I know that for me, we have a huge leftover pizza from Cecilia’s birthday, and with final projects for school, Christmas projects and trying to get my small business going, I have been living on pizza and cupcakes. Luckily, I treat myself every morning to this wonderful pumpkin muffin I found on Recipe Girl.

Photo from Recipe Girl

Photo from Recipe Girl

I wanted to make the same muffin but a little cleaner, so I consulted my favorite clean eating site – The Gracious Pantry – for the food substitution chart to see what I could do with this recipe. And here are the changes I made:

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour  2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour  1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I would have done 3 cups whole wheat flour, if I had enough!)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, melted  1/4 cup apple sauce, 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar  3/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (unsweetened)
My version

My version

I also opted out of making the glaze, which was part of the recipe. I’m sure there is a clean glaze I could make, but I didn’t worry about it this time. You can get the full recipe – including the glaze – over at Recipe Girl, and you can download How to Convert Recipes at The Gracious Pantry.

I will be sharing more and more recipes that are cleaned up a little and perfect for the Holidays in the next couple of weeks. If you have a healthy holiday recipe you would like to share, or you would like to see a favorite recipe of yours cleaned up – please let me know in the comments and share on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #healthyholidays. You can find more healthy holiday inspiration on my Pinterest!

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.