Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tuna croquettes

One of my favorite meals that my mother makes is salmon patties (I don't think the term "croquette" was even known in my household), creamed potatoes, biscuits and gravy. A few years ago, she showed me how she made them, I wrote the recipe down, gave it to Michael, he made them for me one time and asked me to never request it again. He said they were gross to make (she uses the salmon that comes in the can with the bones and they have to be carefully removed) plus he has a major aversion to anything that lives in the water. I think at some point in his childhood, his family was tortured with fish or some other type of disaster, because all of them hate it.

I eat fish practically every time I eat out and I've learned that if I want it at home, I've got to make it myself. I'm not that crazy about pasta and Michael loves it so occasionally he will have his pasta and I'll have fish.

This recipe caught my eye when I watched Alton Brown make it and I decided to try it. These are good, not quite as tasty as my mother's salmon patties, and I may try the recipe sometime with salmon instead of tuna.

One problem I had with this recipe is that the croquettes do not hold together well. A reviewer suggested that you use one egg instead of two* and I think I'll try that the next time.


* 1 (7-ounce) pouch albacore tuna, drained well and shredded by hand
* 2 green onions, chopped fine
* 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
* 2 large eggs, beaten* (see note above)
* 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs, divided
* Olive oil, for sauteing


Place the tuna, onions, mustard, eggs, lemon juice, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs into a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. Divide the mixture into 8 rounds and set aside on a parchment lined half sheet pan. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Place the remaining bread crumbs into a pie plate. One at a time, coat each round in the panko on all sides.

Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the croquettes and cook 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack set over a half sheet pan lined with paper towels. Allow to cool for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Iceman Cometh

The big storm that has been in the news just barely grazed us. We got a steady sleet and just a little snow starting this morning around 9am. For a while, things looked ominous and the university closed at noon. Temperatures have crept up a little and it is now raining. If the temperatures do slip below freezing, we could be in trouble. Fortunately, that is not forecast to happen.

Pansies popping through the sleet

The cast iron plants on the patio still look good

The Whale's Tongue agave is a plant that I wanted after seeing it on Pam Pennick's Digging blog. I've read that it is super hardy. It has had its ups and downs since I planted it and I moved it earlier from the ground to a pot.

Hmmm, it looks like someone forgot to bring the pots in this year -

Camellia "C M Wilson" has blooms -

The whitest area I could find was behind the garage -

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, January 18, 2010

Planting tulips

I had the day off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and it turned out to be really nice. We had a wet weekend, 2 1/2 inches according to the rain gauge, so everything was still very damp. The sun was out today and temperatures were in the mid 50s.

Tulips are best planted earlier than this (November or December are the best months) but I never got around to it and it was too cold to get out during the winter break. So, better late than never. I think they will probably be okay. Actually, it has been years since I've planted tulips. I planted them often in my early garden days but I learned quickly that they usually don't come back and have to be treated like annuals. There is one variety, the beautiful solid white "Maureen", that has survived many years in our garden. I saw this bag of tulips at Sam's a few months ago and the price wasn't bad ($14 for a bag of 100). They are described as "Mixed Colors" - don't you love those generic descriptions?

I stored the tulip bulbs in a drawer in the refrigerator. This gives them a pre-chilling period which usually helps since our winter temperatures are often erratic. Storing bulbs this way is perfectly fine, just don't keep them in the refrigerator with fruit because they emit some type of gas that is harmful to the bulbs.

I wanted to plant the tulips in front of the little fence that encloses the vegetable garden. This area is a mess and I've yet to come up with a successful plan for it. The planting space between the fence and the driveway is very narrow. I've tried daylilies and iris with little success.

First, I did a little cleaning up. I removed the weeds and all the daylilies and iris. You can see that the fence also needs some help. It is in need of a good paint job but it probably needs to be totally replaced. There are only a few panels of fencing so this might be an inexpensive project before spring arrives.

Make sure the bulbs are firm - squeeze them softly to be sure and discard any that are soft. Tulip bulbs should be planted about 6 inches deep with the tip pointing up. A little bone meal can be added to the planting hole but I confess I rarely do this. Carefully cover the bulbs with soil and mulch.

After a few hours, I finished the project and had all 100 bulbs planted. I also added some leftovers to containers. In a few months, we should have a nice row of tulips along the fence. Then I'll have to decide what to plant there next!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, January 15, 2010

Meet a new blogger!

I'd like to introduce a new blog to you. My friend Jennifer lives just over the Tennessee state line which is about 20 miles from me. We met a few years ago when she visited my garden. She has a talent for rooting plants and I guess you could call her a rose rustler. Her blog is titled "Confessions of a Serial Tiller" (I love it!) and I'm looking forward to it. Blog away Jennifer!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fretting over plants

The recent cold snap is finally breaking and with it a sense of relief. I always worry about certain plants during the winter. Actually, when looking at the recent temperatures, they don't look too bad. After all, the lowest temperature we had was in the low teens. It was the span of the cold that makes me wonder. We had a ten day (more or less) period of temperatures below freezing. Maybe this is not as bad on plants as a sudden freeze that comes out of the blue.

One plant that was on my mind was the Armandii clematis and I suppose the reason I thought about it a lot is because I can see it easily outside the window. That and the fact that this is my second attempt to grow it. One website says that it is hardy to -5. I don't know about that but perhaps it is hardier than I imagined. I mulched it heavily with pine straw and can only hope for the best. Looking at it today, it looks fresh and revived.

Last night was another frigid one with temperatures around 20. The forecast for the next ten days is warmer days and low temperatures all above freezing. It is going to feel really good!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

This is a great comfort food for those frigid days and we've had a lot of them lately. I don't recall where I found this recipe but I do know that I embellished it somewhat. It is very rich and filling and I like it with cornbread!

Most recipes call for celery which I don't like. I've listed it in the recipe but it is optional. Here are the ingredients I use:

* 2 cups water
* 4 cups chopped fresh broccoli
* 1 cup chopped celery (optional)
* 1 cup chopped or shredded carrots
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 6 tablespoons butter
* 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 3 cups chicken broth
* 2 cups milk
* 1 tablespoon parsley
* 1 teaspoon onion salt
* 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese


1. In a large pot, bring water to boil. Add broccoli, (celery) and carrots; boil 2-3 minutes. Drain and set vegetables aside. In the same pot, saute the onion in butter until it is tender. Stir in flour to form a roue (until it is smooth). Gradually add the broth and milk, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil; boil and stir for 1 minute. Add vegetables and remaining ingredients. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the cheese, stirring to melt.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snowy views

We got our first snowfall this morning, only an inch or so, but enough to close everything down. And finally the news people have something to talk about instead of that fricking football game. I can't wait for that thing to be over with!

I only went out briefly today. I first took some photos from inside. This is the view from the front door -

From the dining room window -

From the breakfast room, overlooking the back driveway -

From the north window of the breakfast room, overlooking the vegetable garden to the left -

From the upstairs bedroom -

And from the other bedroom window -

I ventured out to the mailbox and took this photo -

And finally took a brief stroll for these photos -

The snow should linger because temperatures are supposed to fall tonight and stay low all weekend. It is going to be a cold weekend with highs only in the 20s and lows in the single digits. Everybody stay warm!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bird Watching

We have really been enjoying the birds outside our breakfast room window. I got a new feeder for Christmas and something that I should have bought a long time ago - a de-icer for the bird bath. We have had some frigid temperatures this past week and this coming week temperatures are suppose to stay below freezing all week long. Lows will get down in the single digits at night. I dread seeing the next electric bill but looking on the bright side, maybe the cold will kill the mosquitoes.

The de-icer is great. Since most of the water is frozen everywhere, the birds flock to it in the mornings. I see more robins at the bird bath than any other bird. They must stay thirsty.

Today was sunny and cold and the bird feeders were very active. Some of the visitors were:

Carolina Chickadee - I love these little birds.

I really adore the little Goldfinches. The yellow coloring gets more vibrant as spring approaches. I'm always amused at how they love to eat hanging upside down.

Another little cutie is the Tufted Titmouse -

And then there are some birds that I'm unsure about. Is this pretty little red bird a Purple Finch?

And who is this little bird?

These photos were taken in the afternoon. There is even a greater variety in early morning, with blue jays, cardinals and other birds making their rounds.