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Thursday, 08 December 2016 12:50

Make chowder with clams or cod

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Fish, cod in particular, is a high- protein, low-fat food. It’s what you do to it that starts making it bad for you.

Like breading or frying it, or both. A four- ounce portion of cod has about 125 calories. That’s it, really. Double, triple or even quadruple that amount once it’s breaded and fried.
But there is something else everyone seems to enjoy at those fish fries that we all love. Clam chowder soup is what I’m talking about. New England clam chowder is the popular choice around here. Not very often do you see Manhattan clam chowder.  
The difference is the soup base — New England uses a cream base,  Manhattan a tomato base. Without saying more, you should be able to determine that the New England version is usually the heavier of the two when it comes to calorie count. 

New England chowder

Serves 4

12 oz. of raw cod, skin removed, with 1/4 cup water or 12 oz. canned clams with juice
2 cups diced potatoes, 1/2 inch pieces
2 Tbsps. butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk
1 tsp. dried, crushed parsley
1 tsp. dried, crushed thyme
1/8 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste

The cod can be frozen or thawed.  Cut into cubes and place in microwave dish. Cover with the 1/4 cup of water and cook in microwave for three minutes or until cooked.
Peel and dice the potatoes. Put in stockpot and cover with water. Boil until tender. Drain. In this same stockpot melt the butter and saute the chopped onions. Add the flour and whisk together into a roux.  Slowly add the milk while you whisk.
Cook over medium heat to thicken.  Add parsley, thyme, pepper and salt.  Add the cooked cod and water mixture. Cook over low heat for an additional 15 minutes. Do not boil because the mixture will break and become thin.
Substitute 12 ounces of canned clams (do not drain) for the cod and water if you desire. It is not necessary to cook the clams separately before adding to the broth.

Manhattan chowder

Serves 4

2 Tbsps. butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
3 cups chicken broth
1 stalk celery
2 carrots
2 potatoes
12 oz raw cod, skin removed, or 12 oz. canned clams with juice
1 can (16 oz.) chopped or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried, crushed parsley
1 tsp. dried, crushed thyme
1/8 tsp. white pepper
Salt to taste

In stockpot, melt the butter and saute the onions. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Clean the celery, carrots and potatoes and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Cut the cod into 1/2 inch cubes and add to stockpot along with remaining ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.     

Friday, 02 December 2016 09:52

Turn leftovers into delicious bakery

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If you’ve got holiday leftovers, you can use them to make some tasty dessert. Doesn’t a cranberry pecan muffin sound good? Or how about pumpkin Bundt cake made even better using sweet potatoes?

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 13:44

This just in blog: Our election hangover

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Instead of a presidential honeymoon, Americans have been given a campaign hangover.

This election season was historic, more for careening off the rails of how traditional campaigns are run than any significance the candidates might bring to the office.

Trump voters seemed as surprised as Clinton voters that the disruptive New York businessman so decisively claimed the race.

And Wisconsin was the final domino to fall in the early morning hours after the polls closed.

The Scott Walker coalition not only delivered the state for Donald Trump, but returned Sen. Ron Johnson, who had trailed in the polls through the fall, to the Senate, assuring that Republicans would have control of the House and Senate.

Now, the question is can we come together as a country?

Maybe, but we have a long way to go.

Hidden in the ugly campaign was a roadmap for the new president and Congress showing what voters want from their government.

We’re frustrated by the rapidly growing income gap.

We’re worried about the influence of unaccountable money in our electoral process.

More people have health insurance than ever before, but costs continue to rise and we don’t know why.

Terrorism remains a threat.

Although the national economy rebounded from the depths of the Great Recession, a wide swath of the working class saw little change for the better.

That frustration fueled the Trump surge.

Although Trump’s transition team touched on a range of topics this past week, wage growth could solve a lot of problems.

Workers with more money feel more secure. They contribute more in taxes. Rising incomes mean people rely less on government services.

More money in people’s pockets means businesses can grow to accommodate increased demand.

Republicans surely will pitch tax cuts as a way to raise wages, but those cuts initially benefit the wealthy and businesses.

A raise in the minimum wage is unlikely, but tax reform can directly drive wage growth by giving companies incentives to raise wages or by penalizing them if they don’t.

So too with health care.

"It'll be great health care for much less money," Trump told Lesley Stahl on "60 Minutes" last week.

I suspect it won’t be quite that simple or easy.

Republicans, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville, finally will be able to reveal their long-alluded to replacement to the Affordable Care Act.

Frustrated voters, on the other hand, won’t have much patience for solutions that are retreads of previous proposals.

There are lots of ways to move forward as a country.

But one way that never came up in the dozens of letters to the editor that we ran in the weeks leading up to the election was that we should do nothing.

It’s commendable that our representatives stick to their principles, but the overarching principle should be to make government work for the people.

Republicans were loath to soften their positions during the almost eight years of President Barack Obama’s term.

They may need to now in the Senate to get Democrats to play along. Republicans will need 60 votes in many cases.

Sometimes that means accepting a compromise and living to fight again in the arena of public opinion. Finding ways to work together means moving away from personality and moving toward policy.

Now that the votes have been counted, our Constitution provides a process by which government can work together to tackle the country’s most serious problems.

We don’t really have much of a choice but to let that process play out.

And maybe we’ll get something done in the two years before the next election season rolls around.

Hopefully we’ll be over our hangover by then.

Dan Plutchak is the editor of CSI Media, publisher of the Janesville Messenger, Stateline News and Walworth County Sunday. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or on Twitter @danplutchak.

Thursday, 28 July 2016 12:25

Editor's blog: Welcome to our new look

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Our work here at the newspaper is never really done. I’m sure our jobs are much like yours in that way.

Yes, we publish a new edition each Sunday and Wednesday, but at the same time we’re working on new stories and new ways to connect with our readers.

The song started simply on an acoustic guitar. Singer-songwriter Colin Hay, the leader of the 1980s group Men At Work, was on stage at the Barrymore Theater in Madison, performing an original song I had never heard before. The lyrics began, and I found myself getting a lump in my throat.

Dear father

I can’t let you go just yet

And I still can’t forget

You walking around

Dear father

You’re in my reflection now

As I reach out and touch you now

Where did you go?

Of all the days to be introduced to the song "Dear Father," it was the 30th anniversary of the death of my own father.

My first-ever published column in 1996 was an essay describing my worries that over time I would forget important details about my dad. The 20 years since have proven that those concerns were unfounded, but like the concerns and regrets expressed by Mr. Hay in his song, they were pretty real at the time.

"As time marches further and further from the day we laid him to rest," my original article reads, "I worry about forgetting him."

Below are some other excerpts from that piece. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I haven’t forgotten you:

I have always regretted that he wasn’t here on earth to see me evolve from a confused kid just out of college to a proud home-owning father with a suit-and-tie job. That he wasn’t here to see his two grandchildren, including the one who bears his name. I can only take solace in the faith that I have, that he does indeed know all of this.

To my children, Grandpa Lyke is just a name in the list of "God blesses" at the end of their prayers, though his name carries the special addition, "up in Heaven with the angels and God."

When my kids get older, I want to be able to tell them in meticulous detail all about the grandfather they never knew.

I want them to know about his subtle wink, his hearty laugh, his huge hands and his arms that were constantly scratched and scarred from farm work.

I want them to know how he would relax by pitching horseshoes when his work was done.

I want them to know how could recite the 1957 Milwaukee Braves lineup from memory 25 years after their heyday. I want them to know how he would take us on long Sunday drives through the countryside, never telling us our destination.

I do not want to remember my father by the last month of his life, when his diseased and damaged body was a shell of its former self. Those details are far too vivid, surreal and disturbing.

It’s amazing the memories you can pull out of storage when something reminds you.

Recently, I was reading my daughter a library book, written by a farm boy who had witnessed his father get badly injured when his clothing got caught in some farm machinery.

When I was a teen, I had witnessed something eerily similar happen to my father. He was climbing up onto a tractor when his pant leg got caught in the spinning mechanism that operated our hay baler. 

Amazingly, his pants were ripped completely off him, but his belt remained around his waist. I can’t imagine how much that had to hurt. Despite the pattern of bruises all over his legs, he was incredibly lucky.

What if his pants hadn’t torn free? What if his legs hadn’t been long enough to straddle the bar? Too many farmers have suffered far worse at the hands of their machinery.

I knew little about my dad’s childhood, but my aunt told me where I could find their first home, the farmhouse where my dad actually was born.

I’m sure I had seen it before, probably on one of our long Sunday drives, but that would have been when I was a child.

Now, as an adult, I was determined to really see it. Armed with an old township plat book and my aunt’s description of the house, I pinpointed its location. Not knowing what to expect, I imagined that I might see a neglected old farmhouse on an abandoned farm.

To my surprise, the farm was still a working operation and the farmhouse was in great shape. I drove past it slow a few times, trying to imagine his arrival on a spring day in 1924.

As I drove away from that farm, I thought about all of the things I would ask him if he were alive. I hope, as my children grow, they will have both the interest, and the opportunity, to ask me.

Jim Lyke lives in Milton. His column runs monthly.


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