Ryan Welton

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Korean, Mexican flavors come together at northwest OKC’s ‘Chigama’

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So, I ain’t gonna lie. I’m beat. Kristi, too. I’m lying in bed as this blog is being crafted.

We’re both super busy at work. We’re both still managing multiple trips per week to the chiropractor after a car wreck in November.

We’re both getting married in April. To each other. There’s a substantial to-do list that goes with that. We’ve got two houses we’re trying to sell, including one that belonged to Mom, and a car settlement in the works and all sorts of side projects and various kiddo-centric to-dos.

A nice dinner out isn’t a luxury. It’s therapy.

We had wanted to try Chigama, a Korean-Mexican restaurant, in northwest Oklahoma City, for quite awhile. A colleague’s recommendation this week, however, sealed the deal — and we visited tonight.

It’s at Memorial and May, just off the Kilpatrick Turnpike. It’s in a strip with other restaurants, including Wagyu and Metro Diner. The first thing you notice upon entering is the interior design.

It’s colorful, modern and brilliant. The blue and orange-themed insides matched the color scheme of the hometown Oklahoma City Thunder on the television.

Because Kristi and I were already pooped from a January that, this year, lasted 74 days, we took forever to order anything. Our waitress, Sarah, stopped by 6-7 times before we could get it together.

We weren’t lallygagging. Kristi was plotting different foods for us to try (our thing is to split food so we can try more dishes), and I was researching on my phone every cocktail in their alcoholic arsenal.

I settled on the poma jalapeño margarita. It was sweet, and it had a serious kick. I think the glass might have been lined with salt and chili powder.

The lady had sake. Cold, sweet pineapple sake. She likes it; I hate the stuff.

My cocktail was a 10 out of a 10. Terrific beginning to the evening out.

Next course was bao. I thought Kristi was saying, “bowel,” and the funny part was that I didn’t flinch. I was like, “Well, I guess this is happening.”

But it was a steamed bun with goodies inside, namely soft-shell crab and pork belly.

Then came the scallion pancakes.

The sour cream sauce paired perfectly with the side dish. Loved this.

Kristi tells me this is “elote.” I responded, “you mean corn?” She squeezed the lime over it, giving the sweet corn a tangy flavor.

The theme of the night at Chigama was “flavor combos.” At no place we’ve been in Oklahoma City has had as interesting a mix of flavors as Chigama.

Our main course was a couple tacos — a beef steak taco on the left and a sweet-and-spicy shrimp taco on the right. My favorite taco was the shrimp. Kristi’s, too.

We were supposed to dip the tacos in this chili sauce but we forgot.

Oh, well. Not that the tacos needed it.

Last but not least, we ordered some churros. By then, the Thunder were up by 25 over the Heat, and the last big table had paid up for the night.

We had the place to ourselves.

I don’t rave about a restaurant unless I mean it, but Chigama was both a culinary delight and an experiential one. And it cements my love of Korean food or at least Korean-influenced foods, especially given that the late, great Chae had been my favorite Oklahoma City restaurant.

Anyway, give this place a try. High marks. Totally affordable, too. $$ on prices and I’d say 9 out of 10 on food + experience.

Your breakfast idea for the weekend starts with Trader Joe’s sriracha ranch

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You don’t need to go to the big city for the best breakfast in America. You can have it at home, and all it takes is Trader Joe’s sriracha ranch dressing.

That was the impetus for the breakfast Kristi made last weekend, both days. We feasted, and it was delicious. Of course, my role in the festivities was to take photos and tell you all about it, guided of course by my talented fiance.

This was essentially an egg dish with a potato side. I’ll tell you about the egg dish first.

“Sriracha Ranch Eggs”

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • Turkey lunch meat, 8 slices, chopped
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Trader Joe’s sriracha ranch dressing
  • Dried chives

Beat your eggs. While you’re beating, put that chopped turkey lunch meat (or whatever you have at home) into your dry pan and brown it a little.

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Then you slip in those beaten eggs, all nice and smooth-like.

Add a sprinkle of cheddar cheese to the extent of your cheese-aholic-ness.

Add a couple drizzles of that sriracha ranch, but not more than about a tablespoon.

Add a tablespoon of dried chives.

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Cook it and stir until you get it to the consistency you like.

Put it onto a plate with a little cheddar cheese sprinkled and sriracha ranch dotted atop it.

***

The potatoes dish is even easier.

“Potato Delight”

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of sliced new potatoes
  • Garlic salt
  • Small / medium onion, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Pepper
  • Dijon mustard

Put a little olive oil into your skillet, and then add those potatoes (drained, of course).

Then add your chopped onion, and add some pepper to taste.

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When everything starts to brown, add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard.

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Sauté until the dish gets slightly crispy, tossing your potatoes every once in a while. Do this on medium to medium high heat.

Serve with a little avocado and your favorite breakfast beverage, and bon appétit!

Paco’s Tacos might have the best tortillas in America

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It’s Labor Day weekend 2018, and for the second straight year, Kristi and I are taking a little vacation.

Last year, it was Albuquerque.

This year, it’s Southern California.

And it’s my first time in Los Angeles. My first impression is that it’s a city deeply rooted in the 1950s and 60s. A lot of the architecture hasn’t been updated at all since then – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

This was also my first time to land at LAX. Kristi and I rented a car through Budget, which is an awful company (all rent-a-car companies are poor, and I can’t wait until there’s an Uber-of-that-world).

But we survived.

And then we asked the Budget attendant about places nearby to eat.

She had a list. On that list was a Mexican joint I had never heard of: Paco’s Tacos. It could turn out that this place is a total chain, but on their website, I’m only seeing two locations, both in California.

Including one location right near the airport.

The first thing I noticed when we walked into the place was that it didn’t smell very good. The door is situated near the bathrooms, and they had some kind of plumbing issue.

Don’t let your nose fool you though. Have patience.

The host led us to a back room that was virtually empty. We got there well before lunch rush.

And then a waiter brought us homemade chips and a salsa that would rip paint off of metal. It was glorious and hot. For a mainstream type of restaurant, this was the hottest salsa I’d ever eaten.

They also had a station where two women were making homemade flour tortillas from scratch. Kristi and I devoured a stack of them with the help of some sweet cream butter.

And now I’ll stop.

The rest of the experience was good but ordinary. Tamales were good. Enchiladas were a-ok.

But for the chips and salsa and tortillas alone, I’d rate Paco’s Tacos as pretty much the best Mexican place I’ve been to in a long while.

You just have to get past the bathroom smell.

Review: WalMart’s ‘Keep It Green’ pre-packaged smoothies

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So, Kristi and I have been drinking smoothies for breakfast for at least a month. Our first foray into smoothie-world was centered on fruits, spinach and Greek yogurt.

I’ll write about it another time, but we recently added peanut powder, hemp seeds, chia seeds and cacao nibs to our smoothie repertoire.

And this morning, we tried our first pre-packaged smoothie. It was WalMart’s Great Value-branded “Keep It Green” pre-packaged smoothies with pineapple, mango, avocado and spinach.

It had three servings, which for our purposes is a bit odd unless young Olivia would also want one.

And she wouldn’t.

This smoothie pack was easy to put together. You just opened the package, put it into your smoothie cup and add 8 oz. of water.

The taste? It tasted like a super healthful smoothie. Heavy on the green and light on the fruit. Could have definitely used a little honey.

However, it wasn’t awful and it was unquestionably healthful.

Breakfast with full-on Southern charm: Buttermilk Kitchen everything I expected Atlanta to be

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Flew in to the ATL Tuesday night with a trip through the Deep South ahead of me. But my first mission was breakfast.

A quick Google search landed me on an Eater.com article detailing the “24 essential breakfast spots” in Atlanta. First listing was a place on Roswell Road called Buttermilk Kitchen.

It’s great to step away from the newsroom and experience a little bit of Americana. I’ve never traveled beyond Mexico (yet) but I’ve loved every trip I’ve taken across the United States.

Well, maybe except for Wilmington, Delaware. Did not like that little crime-infested city. Took a jog through town only to learn later that I was fortunate to not have been a murder victim.

But I digress.

The Buttermilk Kitchen lived up to the expectations Kristi and I had for Southern dining. Big time.

The first thing I always ask is, “What’s the one thing you tell folks that they absolutely have to try?”

The waiter’s answer? Chicken biscuit.

Sold. It was a big piece of fried chicken on a from-scratch sweet biscuit with a hint of red pepper jelly, a side of cheese pimento grits and some pickles. I’m a sucker for good grits, and these were magnificent. Best I’ve had since a Virginia trip I took a few years back.

Kristi ordered a pimento cheese omelet with thick maple bacon and red pepper jelly. With a side of more bacon, of course.

Bacon.

When we do our adventures, we order two plates and share. And there wasn’t a bite of either dish that didn’t make me think Buttermilk Kitchen wasn’t one of the ten best restaurants I’ve ever patronized.

Even their coffee was on-point. I had hot and Kristi got iced with cream. Strong, flavorful with a side of cream and vanilla syrup.

My first impression of Atlanta was as a cosmopolitan metro are with lots and lots of green, as if NYC’s Central Park was as big as the city itself.

But the impression of Buttermilk Kitchen was positive enough that I gotta encourage anybody stopping in the ATL to eat there.

Top 10 meal, all-time.

Best food truck I’ve had in OKC so far: MOB Grill

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One of many cool things about working for Griffin Communications is “food truck Wednesday.” A local eatery on wheels stops by, and we don’t have to venture out for lunch.

First thing I do is snap photos.

I’ve not been diligent about posting my reviews or thoughts after the fact. Most of the trucks have been good.

Today’s was great.

Also: Check our my YouTube channel!

MOB Grill serves burgers and sandwiches, and they serve fries and cheese fries. Super simple menu, and I like that. Most restaurant menus are far too complex.

Too much stuff. Chaos.

I opted for The SQUEALER and MOB fries. Got me for $10, and it was plenty of food. Purposely, I didn’t put a ton of sauce on it. I wanted to see how the meat stood up on its own.

As always, I grabbed more than my share of ketchup.

They were super generous with the meat, as if they knew they had a great product and weren’t afraid to flaunt it. Brutha, this was the juiciest meat I’ve eaten in a while.

Note: if I haven’t written about Rustler’s BBQ in Henryetta, I’ll have to soon. Them and MOB Grill have the best meat I’ve eaten in the Sooner State.

The fries were just like I like ’em: tasty and salty.

And when I posted my photo mosaic to Instagram, they responded in less than five minutes. As a social media manager, that warmed my heart and earned an angel its wings.

Kidding aside, for me, the MOB Grill food truck is an instant yes any time I see it. Really, really strong.

What do you like to put in your smoothies?

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I’m on kind of a health kick in the days after mom’s passing, not because I recognize my own mortality but because I recognize my own frailty. I just need to shed a few pounds and be more purposeful about what I put into my body.

It’s a daily, hourly struggle.

So, I’m on a smoothie kick.

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However, I’m a novice and would totally love your input as to ingredients and recipes that would work with a simple Magic Bullet appliance. My go-to recipe is pretty easy, actually:

  • Spinach
  • Banana
  • Cherries
  • Pineapple
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Greek yogurt
  • Milk
  • Honey

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I’m looking to maximize my satiety throughout the day and the health benefit of anything I eat first thing in the morning. I’m also trying to get good at the process of making the smoothie, which can take more time than you’d expect if you don’t mix the ingredients just right.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share my favorite combos — and an update on how much weight I’m shedding due to some simple changes in diet.

I always remind myself: You can’t outwork your mouth.

Diet first. Exercise second.

Pasta puttanesca sounds fancy, right? It’s super easy, fast and inexpensive

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While I enjoy cooking, so does my girlfriend, Kristi. It just so happens that she’s way better at it than I am. Of course, as a blogger, I can churn out content pretty darned fast, so I thought: why don’t I tell you about the meals she creates, how she does it and how much it costs?

Brilliant idea, right? Right. More food posts!

I had a long day covering winter weather for the best TV station in Oklahoma City, and I’m super lucky that I was able to navigate the roads to get home. Subaru magic, baby. Truth be told, if you drive slowly, you can make it (as long as the proverbial ‘other guy’ doesn’t drive like a bat out of hell). But I’m doubly lucky that I’ve got Kristi and that she enjoys cooking. Like I said at the outset, I enjoy it, too. You’ve seen that on my blog, so there’s at least some proof.

Tonight she made us pasta puttanesca, ‘puttanesca’ referring to the sauce, specifically one with tomatoes, garlic, olives and tomatoes. It’s common for folks to add capers and anchovies to the sauce as well. I love anchovies, but Kristi doesn’t love them as much as I do. She doesn’t hate them; she just doesn’t go out of her way to buy ’em.

The grocery list for this dish, as she made it, is as follows (the cost being the first figure, and the second being the estimated amount of product used for the dish):

  • Whole wheat pasta: $1 ($.50)
  • Veggie pasta: $1.48
  • Puttanesca sauce: $2.98 (x2)
  • Sliced green olives: $1.98 ($.75)
  • Black olives: $1.96 (for a 3.8 oz. can)
  • Carrots: $1.38 ($.75)
  • Celery: $1.58 ($.50)
  • Onion: $.79 ($.40)

Total cost: $16.13
Cost of product used: $12.30

We estimate that this dish makes 8 to 10 servings, which comes to between $1.23 and $1.53 per serving. You can’t beat that!

Making pasta puttanesca easily took less than 30 minutes, Kristi says.

Here’s how you do it:

Boil a big ol’ pot of water for the pasta, and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking to the pan.

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Chop your onion, carrots and celery and sautee them in olive oil and balsamic vinegar until the celery and carrots are kind of soft. Drain your olives and add those to the veggies. Add garlic salt to taste.

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Note that, above, I included the cost of each ingredient along with the cost of what Kristi used, so in the case of the sliced green olives, it looks like she used about 40 percent of the can.

Warm your puttanesca sauce. Doesn’t get much easier.

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Boil your pasta. Kristi likes her puttanesca with anything-but-spaghetti, and in this case, she chose whole wheat and veggie pastas. Thumbs up from me!

Mix it all together, and serve with a veggie. Kristi roasted some asparagus for us, and it was all delicious.

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The bonus is that I’ve got lunch for Thursday, when once again the Oklahoma City area will be dealing with wintry precipitation and bad road conditions. This dish is delicious and easy, and if you’ve got a big crew to feed, it’s super inexpensive.

If you enjoyed this post, give me a follow — or find me on Twitter (@ryanwelton), Instagram (@ryanwelton2013) or Facebook (/welton). I’m also a YouTube content creator at YouTube.com/RyanWeltonMusic. Come find me online!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yankee potato soup recipe cures what ails you — and it’s stupid easy

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Everybody should have three or four dishes they can whip up from memory. They don’t have to be fancy. In fact, this time of year, comfort food rules the roost, and for me that means soups.

For most folks, potato soup is a thick, creamy delight. However, I learned a much less Southern version of this winter-time classic. I’ve always called it Yankee Potato Soup because I got it from my mother, who is from Ohio. I love this version of potato soup because it’s fast, inexpensive, wholesome and delicious.

As my mom has always said, “This will cure what ails you,” and I had the flu this past week. I can attest to the truthfulness of her statement!

Total preparation time is 40 minutes from start to eats.

Here’s what you need:

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  • Four potatoes
  • Couple stalks of celery
  • Quarter of an onion
  • Baby carrots
  • 2 TBSP of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup of cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Here’s how easy this is. Peel and chop the potatoes into chunks, roughly 10-15 per potato. Toss in the carrots, and chop the celery. Slice a quarter of that onion into small chunks, as fine as possible. For the record, I prefer bigger chunks of onion. Onion is a flavor maker. Love me some onion.

Toss it in a pot and cover it with water.

That whole process will take you 15 minutes.

Turn the stove on all the way up and get it to a rolling boil, where it should stay for 25 minutes. At that point, add a cup of milk, 2 TBSP of butter and up to a quarter cup of cream.

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Add salt and pepper to taste, and you’ve got soup! Pair with a small salad for Night 1:

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And on Night 2, kick it with some saltines on the side and a glass of sweet tea.

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The world’s easiest slow-cooker pot roast comes to $4 per (huge) serving

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One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 is to cook more in my slow cooker. I’m no chef, and I’m not fancy, but I’m a big believer that cooking more often results in fewer processed foods consumed.

With the recent cold snap we had here in the southern Plains, I decided this week to slow cook a pot roast. Here’s a link to the recipe I picked from a site called The Spruce. I chose this recipe because it had the fewest ingredients and looked like the least hassle.

I work in the news business, and I don’t have time to dilly-dally or for fiddle-faddle. I’m not sure what that means; I don’t have time to look it up. My slow-cooker meals need to be easy, and they need to be cost-effective.

I’m demanding that way, and I’d bet you are, too. So, I wanted to share the recipe and tell you what worked, what didn’t, how it ultimately tasted and how much it cost. The first thing I can reveal is that this pot roast recipe was incredibly easy. It took me less than 10 minutes to prepare.

The ingredients with cost included:

3 pounds of chuck roast: $17.02
Bag of new potatoes: $2.98
Bag of carrots: $1.99
Box of onion soup mix: $1.38 (used one packet, so $.69)
Two cans of cream of mushroom: $1.36

Total cost: $24.04

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In the morning, I popped that chuck roast in the bottom of my Crock Pot. There were two big pieces, and they fit perfectly. Per the instructions, I combined the onion soup mix with the two cans of Cream of Mushroom soup. Meanwhile, I popped the baby carrots and potatoes into the pot — and let me tell you: what a convenience to not have to peel or slice. The last thing you add is 1.5 cups of water.

I turned the slow cooker on low, and I went to work.

Eleven hours later, I returned home, and the house smelled glorious. Holy olfactory senses! The consistency of the mixture was more soupy. If I had been home all day and had more time, I might have added some flour to the mixture to thicken the sauce.

I poured myself a bowl and slathered some butter on a couple pieces of bread, ready for comfort food deluxe.

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My take: It was bland on night No. 1. The meat was tender, but it was all very fatty. With a couple of slices of bread and butter, however, it was quite palatable. Something I should do the next time I make this is to cut the meat into pieces and carve out some of the marbled fat.

Kristi’s take: “Tender. Flavorful. Garlic salt was a nice addition on night No. 2, and my favorite part was that I didn’t have to make it. I got to sit back and enjoy it!”

Mom’s take: While she didn’t have a bowl, she offered up this wisdom from afar: Onions. Always add an onion. They bring out the flavor in whatever you’re cooking.

The reason I didn’t add an onion is because this recipe didn’t call for it, and I was already adding the onion soup mix. Thought it might be too much.

In all, this recipe provided six incredibly generous servings. At a total cost of $24.04, it averages to $4 apiece. Also, it was better on night No. 2 and for day No. 3, a lunch. Garlic salt worked wonders to cure any blandness, and overall it’s worth a go. It’s an incredibly easy dish that, I swear, took me 10 minutes.

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Thanks to those of you who have followed my random li’l blog so far. I know I have lots of random interests and topics, and I know that isn’t ideal in the blogosphere. We’ll see where it goes!

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