As we near the end of the year, I feel as though I could sleep for days. I regularly ask myself whether I’m doing enough and almost always think I should be doing more, pushing myself harder and further to reach my full potential or at least get in as much as I possibly can in any given day. I am a self-starter through and through, and when I’ve checked off a bunch of to-dos and plopped myself down on the couch for an episode of whatever show Aaron and I are currently watching at the end of the day, I think about whether I’m pushing hard in the right directions. Is my energy focused where I want it to be and where it should be, are want and should even in alignment?
It’s easy to think in the moment that we’re not doing enough. As I look back on 2014, I realize that we (Aaron and I, and each of us as individuals) pushed ourselves hard, possibly harder than ever, or at least in new ways that’s made it feel harder than ever. There were lots of ups and downs requiring our full attention, and just as one thing would dissipate, another would arise. I went back to school for culinary nutrition, Aaron continued to grow the business he co-founded, we bought a condo to make into a home, I wrote and Aaron designed an eBook, and there were many, many smaller happenings along the way. We weren’t great or even good at carving out non-work time. It was the year of “get shit done”.
Earlier this week, after a series of long and ongoing conversations about what we hope to make and create, Aaron earnestly asked me, “Do you ever think we’re too ambitious?” My answer was this: whether we are or are not is totally relative. Wanting to do bigger things and forge our own paths—that’s who we are. We’re probably never going to be satisfied. Happy and grateful, hopefully yes. But satisfied enough to stop striving for more than a moment? I’m not sure that’s in the cards.
I’m being conscious of making the remainder of December a more quiet, reflective time. A time to shut out as much of the noise as possible and hone in on the people (and puggles) who matter most. A time to pause to give ourselves the mental space to thoughtfully decide what’s next and what we hope to make happen. Because trying to stifle that desire to do more and push harder is simply not who we are. Instead, our energy is better spent being disciplined in deciphering the few key places where we want to invest our ambition.
I decided I was long overdue in creating a go-to vegan stuffing recipe. Admittedly, stuffing has never been what most excites me at holiday meals (I reserve that enthusiasm for dessert!). It wasn’t until I had a little moment of clarity that I realized I should use my favorite cornbread recipe in place of store-bought bread. That cornbread was the first recipe I shared on Pickles & Honey more than three years ago, and it’s one of my most popular. If there was ever an opportunity to see just how far Aaron and I have come as a photographer and a writer, it would be re-reading that post. Three years is a long time and a short time.
I kept the cornbread stuffing simple, enhancing the coziness factor with homemade vegetable stock, dried sage, and thyme. Cooking it in a skillet is optional, but to me, the heaviness of the pan and the rustic aesthetic feels especially grounding and appropriate this time of year.
- 1 batch simple vegan cornbread (or simple gluten-free vegan cornbread)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¾ cup chopped carrot
- ¾ cup chopped celery
- 1 cup thinly sliced baby bella mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1½ cups homemade vegetable stock
- fine grain sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- Cube the cornbread into 1” pieces and spread it on a parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once halfway through, until golden brown and toasted.
- While the cornbread is toasting, add the olive oil to a deep 10” cast iron skillet over medium heat.
- When the skillet is hot, add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened.
- Stir in the mushrooms, sage, thyme, and parsley. Cook for 1-2 more minutes, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the skillet from the heat.
- Add the cornbread croutons to the skillet and gently toss them with the cooked vegetables. Pour in the vegetable stock and gently toss once more.
- Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F, then uncover and continue cooking for 5-10 more minutes, until the top is golden brown. Serve immediately, topped with a pour of easy vegan gravy if you like!
skillet: lodge 3-quart pre-seasoned cast-iron combo cooker
I hope you’re able to carve out a bit of downtime and self-care this weekend amidst all of the holiday hustle. I’ll be back next week with a few more festive and easy recipes to carry us through and toast to the new year.
[hint, hint: there may be booze involved!]