Between receiving a delicious, brand new recipe for me to use for any meal, and getting to work closely with the coolest chick I know, I am happy as a clam today.
I'm now sharing the love via Hundred Blog and introducing this rad lady (for those that may not know), Michelle Embleton of The Secret Ingredient is Love.
I have known Michelle (who is the creator/editor/writer/photographer/mastermind behind the blog) for a few years now, and have always known her to be one of the most creative, smart, savvy, funny people there is. I was introduced to her via one of my life soulmates Cassidy Pazyniak who I used to grind daily through the 9-5 with, in our first 'real life' job after college (shudder).
Cassidy is the most selfless and loving person I know, so anyone she's down with, I am too.
Michelle has not only had a reputation for being cool, but for being an insane cook. But since day one she's had a unique ability to make dishes that are delicious, seasonal, fresh and loved by all types of eaters. Even before she started the blog, I remember people constantly asking her to find a way to share her recipes with the world.
To be an interesting person, with a talent that you share with the world, is the best scenario there is. (p.s. how cute is she?)
When I heard she was doing the damn thing (aka moving to a different state, quitting her job, and launching her blog) I was beyond impressed and excited to support her and see the journey unfold.
I mean how many people do you know that actually follow their dreams to pursue their creative passion and while sharing delicious/amazing food with the world?
A little background on The Secret Ingredient is Love.
I really do think the secret ingredient in every dish is love. It’s a pretty corny joke my Dad has used since I was younger. The secret ingredient in every stack of pancakes or pot of homemade sauce was always love.
She uses seasonal, fresh ingredients in unique ways, and her blog posts are so much more than just recipes, they're stories. Also if you've ever seen the photos of what she makes, it's sort of unreal how beautiful these dishes look. If you need help and insight on how to make your blog photos stand out, she's your girl.
(Even though my filter game strong - I have gotten so many good tips from her!)
Recently I wrote about how I'm new to the vegan club (about 6 months or so) and thought to reach out to Michelle to help spice up my life (spice girls/cooking joke - killing it today) and she, being the wizard in the kitchen that she is, came back to me with an amazing vegan recipe that's super easy to make and delicious.
I'll be #basic for anything this good for real #pumpkinspice
So here we are, excited to share this amazing recipe and my interview with the amazing, Michelle Embelton of The Secret Ingredient is Love.
(Vegan) Blueberry and Pumpkin Oat Breakfast Bars
Total time: 30 minutes. Makes 8-10 bars
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 1/2 cups pure canned pumpkin
- 1/2 cup chopped almonds
- 3-4 tablespoons agave nectar (depends on your sweetness preference)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1/4 cup coconut milk (soy or almond milk works too)
- 1/4 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup chopped almonds
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- ¼ cup halved almonds
- ¼ cup sunflower seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8x8-inch or similar sized pan with parchment paper and lightly grease with coconut oil.
Add all the ingredients for the bottom layer to a blender or food processor and pulse until well combined. If the mixture is too dry, add an additional tablespoon of coconut oil or water. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and evenly spread. Bake 7-9 minutes, until set.
While the bottom layer is in the oven, prepare the topping. Add all the topping ingredients to a large bowl and stir well to combine. Once the bottom layer is done baking, remove the pan from the oven and evenly spread the top layer over top. Lightly press down (with your fingers) so the bottom and top layers hold together. Bake an additional 12-15 minutes, or until top layer is set.
This recipe is seriously so bomb. You can eat something like this any time of day, and it's such clean good fuel for your body.
*Photos of other The Secret Ingredient Is Love (vegan) recipes and linked below.
Now my interview with Michelle, aka the genius that brought these insane treats to LIFE.
Tell us about your blog and where the idea and inspiration came from boo!
I've been writing things down my entire life - random short stories, quotes, to do lists, I'm just infatuated with words. I've always been equally (if not more) obsessed with food - it holds a huge place in life, so many of my favorite memories involve cooking and eating with the ones I love. I thought about starting a blog for a really long time and just kept procrastinating- and then I made the move from Chicago to Charlotte in August of 2014, and treated the experience as a fresh start in a lot of different ways- the biggest one being that I finally took the leap into the blogging world!
And the story behind the name? I'm such a cornball - growing up (okay this still happens to this day) my Dad would always ask what the secret ingredient is in every dish he or my mom cooked for us. The answer? Always the same: love! (We have other ridiculously dorky family sayings too, not just this one.) I debated blog names for a while but then one day it kind of hit me << same with me and hundred blog! >> and I thought it was absolutely perfect - I'm able to pay tribute to my roots and the people that taught me everything I know, especially in the kitchen.
What makes 'The Secret Ingredient Is' different? It's different than any blog I've read.
Honestly, I have no idea! I just cook and write from the heart. (Again, I’m a cornball.) Most of the time, my inspiration for a dish comes from a memory or reminds me of a certain person or place, etc. As much as I like to keep up with food trends, I really just love asking people for suggestions or ideas - quick lunches, healthy snacks, dinners that both the parents and kids would enjoy - I think a good way of connecting with readers is knowing what they’re looking for more of – and hopefully that will help make cooking, meal prepping, eating, more enjoyable for them!
In terms of my cooking style – I just really love putting different twists on everyday dishes - like yes, it's okay to substitute yogurt for sour cream; I promise with the right ingredients you won’t notice the difference between turkey bacon and regular bacon; vegetables aren’t just good for you – they can actually taste delish too. I’m all about bold flavors, fresh-tasting dishes even in the middle of winter, figuring out a bunch of different ways to make sure chicken isn’t boring, - and I try to translate all that into everything I share.
I love your writing style, and how you tell stories, not just share recipes and pictures of pretty food (yawn) can you talk about storytelling?
First off, thank you! That really means a lot to me. Surprise surprise, my favorite class in college was a journalism one that focused on storytelling. I just love getting lost in a good story and being able to connect with the writer and feel like I’m there. I write a blog post the same way I would talk to someone if we were sitting together over coffee or wine – I don’t want people to just read a list of ingredients, I want them to relate somehow or feel drawn to make the food for a reason more than just because it tastes good. << I LOVE THIS >>
What are you most proud of?
Ahh this is so tough! A lot. And I don't mean that in a humble brag way -- I mean it because it's been a super windy and weird road up until I started the blog, and then I finally found something I am so passionate about and things just clicked. The blog has filled a huge void that I tried desperately to fill for so long. I’m able to be creative and combine my love for so many of my favorite things – food, writing, photography, social media, connecting with others- in one outlet, and it really just feels awesome. << I feel the same, it's an awesome way to express myself and share with people what's happening! >>
What's your life mantra? Your food mantra?
As cliché as they come - follow your heart, your instincts are probably right, success will follow if you are passionate about something and you're chasing after your dreams. Eat food that is really good for you, and don't feel bad when you want to indulge. Hustle hard, even if it means being a nanny to financially help as you pursue your blog dreams. << HUNDRED >>
Always have a creative outlet. Most importantly, don't compare yourself to anyone - it will literally make you go crazy. (And that's pretty similar to my food mantra as well...)
What's your favorite food or favorite thing to make?
Dinner! It's the meal I look forward to most - there is just so much you can do. Plus, leftovers are the best. I'm a big fish person, it's definitely my protein of choice and I think it's pretty versatile. I can use it in all my favorite dishes - pasta, tacos, grilled with a plate of veggies - and most of the time still save room for a little bit of dessert because I have a crazy sweet tooth.
Baking is definitely another thing I love - but I feel more comfortable with cooking - unless I'm making no-churn ice cream, because I have that one down to a science. I try to limit baking super-indulgent sweets unless I know they'll be shipped off to someone else because I am horrible with self-control when it comes to anything with peanut butter or chocolate, or both. I've definitely had more misses than hits when I'm baking on the fly - like learning the proper measurements for really soft cookies, or what kind of flour to use in cupcakes - but I've learned a ton in the last year just by experimenting and slowly have a better idea of things.
What do you do with all the food you cook? I can't be left unattended with that much food...
Um, eat every last bit of it. I try to plan out a week knowing what days I’ll be in the kitchen for 5,6,7 hours and what days I’ll be out late and won’t have time to cook. I’m grateful that my boyfriend Erick eats everything – it makes life so much easier – and he’s gotten really good at transforming some of the leftovers into a different meal the next day. I’m pretty sure he pretends he’s on an episode of Chopped every time he opens up the fridge << LOL >>. I also ship off A LOT of the baked goods with him to work – it’s really nice to get opinions of outsiders because I think he’ll always tell me something tastes great even if it actually just tastes ok. And being around kids is also amazing because I bring a lot to them too - they a) will eat anything that resembles a dessert and b) are brutally honest and if they don’t like something, oh they will tell you exactly why.
What's next for The Secret Ingredient is?
Short term dreams? More collaborations with you please! << LYLAS >> Hopefully getting my feet wet with blog conferences, working with products I love, meeting more bloggers, sharing stories and encouraging people to always enjoy cooking!
Long term dreams? I’d love more than anything to someday write my own cookbook. << YES PLEASE. It can be my only cookbook I'll ever own >>
Honestly there are so many vegan recipes on the site (not listed as vegan) but they have easy fresh ingredients, and how insane do they look? I legitimately just got back from a dinner (Italian, aka breadbaskets on breadbaskets) and I want to eat this glorious FOOD!
Okay I am so happy with the day, and this post and recipe, I am off to bed. Let me know what you think about the recipe and if you want to see more from Michelle. Also make sure to check out her blog, she's writing a little bit on my vegan annoying self! Hehe