Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Thought I’d (finally) share a few images, here and there, of our trip to Hawaii this summer. These three are of my niece, Eliana…more to come…





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Greeny Power Bars

Greeny Power Bars

Hi guys! It’s been a long time, eh?

The past month (has it been a whole month?) since my last food post has been jam packed full of photo shoots and prepping for our much needed long Hawaii vacation. As in 20 days long. Oh yeah, I should mention with a wedding, our wedding, thrown in the mix :) May has been gloriously busy with shoots for 1859 Magazine, Portland Monthly Magazine, OX restaurant, portrait shoots of little Latino children and loads of work with Eater. Yeah, I’m tired. But that blissful sort of tired when you’ve been doing exactly what you want to do. That energizing kind of tired when at the end of the day you can truly say, “I love my job”. I’m not trying to rub it in because I KNOW, believe me I know exactly what it’s like to have a shit job that holds you back and keeps you miserable. It’s not so long ago that I was there and I thank my lucky stars everyday for finally getting to where I want to be. And where is that, you might ask? Making beautiful pictures every day and earning a living from it. Shooting for two of Oregon’s premier magazines and knowing, just knowing that I’m on the road to shooting for the biggies. You know, Sunset, Food and Wine and of course the pinnacle, Saveur. When Saveur calls, my head may actually implode. Or, at the very least, there will be champagne :)

Greeny Power Bars

A peek into the craziness of the past month

Tomorrow morning Adam and I board a flight to the Big Island of Hawaii. For those of you who don’t know, my mom is from Hawaii. Born and raised in a small town in the northern part of the island called Honoka’a. My grandparents were born there as well and as kids growing up we spent every other summer with them. I know for some of you Hawaii would be a luxury vacation, but for me, it’s going home. My folks are there, my sister and her family are there, and seemingly hundreds of cousins. No seriously, my mom is constantly pointing out people on the street, in the grocery store, where ever. “That’s Johnny, your cousin”, “That’s Deb, your cousin”. No kidding, constant flow of family.


My three-year-old niece, Eliana, wearing the apron I gave her for her birthday. Cannot wait to see her!

There will lazy days on the  beach, there will likely be a bit of horseback riding (my brother-in-law is a cowboy. For real), there’ll be food (no I won’t eat Spam), and, oh yeah, there’ll be a wedding. My and Adam’s wedding to be precise. No biggie. Really. I mean, after four and half years we, for all intents and purposes, are married. But we were planning on going to Hawaii anyway (for an astronomical event that Adam must witness) so why not throw a wedding in the mix, right? We’re keeping it simple. Adam in linens and me in a Hawaiian dress (that you can see here on Pinterest). Flip flops, leis and of course family. Just immediate family, eleven of us. A quick ceremony on the beach followed by a luau the next day. And that’ll be that. Simple, straightforward, relaxed.

I think the strangest part will be getting used to saying “husband”.


Greeny Travelin’ Power Bars

I wanted to bring something healthy for Adam and I to snack on on the plane, so I turned  to
Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks because she often posts snacks she makes for traveling.

These are a riff on her Big Sur Power Bars. I included some different grains, as well as powdered greens to boost the health factor.
Greens are optional, of course. 


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup rolled barley flakes
1/2 cup rolled rye flakes
1 bar of dark chocolate, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon wheatgrass powder, optional
1/2 tablespoon spirulina powder, optional
1 cup brown rice syrup
Scant 1/4 cup raw sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place nuts and seeds on a baking sheet and lightly toast for about 7 minutes. Give a stir or a toss once or twice.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Combine the oats, rye, barley, chocolate and greens in a large bowl.

Place grain mix in your food processor and pulse several times to just break down the grains.

Place grain mix in a large bowl.

Pour nuts and seeds into your food processor and pulse several times to finely chop.

Add nut and seed mix to grains and stir to combine. Set aside.

Combine brown rice syrup, sugar, salt, espresso and vanilla in a small saucepan of medium heat.

Stir constantly as it comes to a boil. About 5 minutes.

Stir the syrup into the grain mixture until well combined.

Lightly oil a 9×9 inch Pyrex or baking pan and spread the mixture into it.

Press it down with damp hands and let cool to room temperature before cutting.

Chilling them will help create a firmer bar.

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© Dina AvilaSunriver is quickly becoming one of my favorite places. Those of you from Oregon will wonder why because, well, yes, Sunriver is a resort town, but not off-season. If you go there after Labor Day the village is all yours. Miles of bike lanes and off-road trails to meander on, epic views, green pastures with grazing horses. Hawks, eagles and chipmunks, lots of them. The air is so clean and the nights so quiet that I naturally woke early because I slept so well.

© Dina Avila

I’ve posted a few pictures here and there from that trip and here are a few more to go along with this week’s recipe: Pumpkin Chili. I know we’ve barely stepped into fall, but the nights here in Portland are starting to get cool and brisk and what better way to warm your belly then with a big bowl of spicy chili.

© Dina Avila

© Dina Avila© Dina AvilaCheers!

Spicy Pumpkin Chili

Adapted from October’s issue of O. The recipe calls for Serrano peppers which the market I shopped at were out of. I used jalapenos instead, which definitely did not provide enough heat. Adam and I doused our chili with Cholula sauce, which made the chili perfectly warm.

What you’ll need~

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 whole shallot, chopped

1-pound ground beef, optional

1 can crushed tomatoes

2-3 cups cooked beans, I used black and black-eyed peas because that is what I had on hand

1 cup uncooked long grain brown rice, or grain of your choice

1 can pumpkin puree

2 jalapeno peppers, chopped

1-tablespoon chili powder

1-teaspoon cinnamon

1-teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Fresh parsley

Warm olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.

Add garlic and shallots and sauté until soft.

Add ground beef, if using and cook until it is just beginning to brown.

Stir in all of the other ingredients, except the parsley plus four cups of water.

Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Serve hot garnished with fresh parsley.

© Dina Avila

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© Dina AvilaJust a quick recipe post for you guys today. I realize I haven’t been as active as I used to be on Leek Soup and mostly it’s just because I’ve been pretty busy. As we know I have a second (night) job that I’m plotting and scheming (constantly) to relieve myself of.  And, (thank goodness!) my photography business is continuing to pick up and grow, slowly but surely.

The other thing is, well, I’m bored with my blog. Not with writing for it and not with shooting for it and for you. Heavens no! I’m just tired of looking at.

The good news is that the incredibly talented (and might I add, gorgeous) Kathleen Shannon of the blog Jeremy and Kathleen and now also of Braid is redesigning my blog for me. Hurray! If you don’t know who she is then check her out. She’s the woman behind my beautiful logo that you can see in action on my recently redesigned and revamped website. Check it out!

I just got a glimpse of Kathleen’s preliminary ideas and designs and it is beautiful. Soon, after a bit of collaborating and ideas exchanging (i.e. nitpicking on my part) you will all see her work in action. Yeah, I can’t wait either.

For now, it’s the same old Leek Soup.


Adam and I off to Central Oregon this morning.

© Dina Avila

Warm days to bike ride in, cold and cuddly nights. A bit of wine, a bit of scrabble, and likely a bit of Top Chef. We don’t have a TV, so whenever we find ourselves around one, well, we are of the TV generation, after all. Last time we went to Central Oregon we found ourselves watching back-to-back episodes of Top Chef into the wee hours.

Could be worse.


Cast Iron Chicken

The September issue of Martha Stewart provides the inspiration for the recipe. I tweaked it just a hair. You’ll find it’s easy and versatile. Perfect for a cool night when you just want to throw everything in a pot and go and watch some Top Chef.

What you’ll need~

About 2 lbs chicken thighs

Coarse sea salt

Olive Oil

1 1/4 cups chicken stock

About 1/2 a pound or more fingerling potatoes, halved or quartered as needed. We want them to be bite-sized.

A handful of shallot cloves, peeled and halved (you can use whole, smashed garlic cloves too)

1/2 cup Greek olives, or olives of your choice. I used unpitted, but it’s simply a matter of personal preference.

1 lemon, washed well and quartered

6 sprigs of thyme, or whatever fresh herb you have on hand

Dried tarragon, optional

1-teaspoon cornstarch

© Dina Avila

Preheat your oven to 450°

Season your chicken thighs with salt.

Warm olive oil over medium-high heat in a large, ovenproof cast iron skillet. I used my enameled Le Creuset with no problems.

Place chicken thighs in the pan, skin side down and cook until browned. About 5 minutes.

Using your tongs, flip the thighs and push to the side of the pan.

Pour in 1 cup of stock and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Add potatoes and bring to a boil.

Add shallots, olives, lemon, fresh herbs and a generous sprinkling of tarragon and return to a boil.

Carefully transfer skillet to the oven.

Roast, stirring about half way through, until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through. About 30 minutes.

Return the pan to the stove and stir in cornstarch and remaining stock.

Bring to a boil to allow the sauce to thicken.

Serve warm.

© Dina Avila


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© Dina Avila

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The closest thing I have to having Irish in me is a tattoo on my left arm that is Celtic in origin but art nouveau in appearance. Yes, it’s an armband and yes I got in the early 90’s, who didn’t? I think the year was 1991 and the place was Seattle. My friend Non and I took the Green Tortoise, i.e. hippie bus, from Berkeley to Seattle and then a Greyhound from Seattle to Vancouver. We were 20 and adventurous.

We stayed in a couple of hostels (I think) and wandered aimlessly. One of the few things I recall is that we lived off of fast food fish and chips from some joint that was swarming with hungry seagulls and getting got lost in downtown Seattle. While trying to figure out where to go next on our map a little old lady walked up this pair of greasy haired, pierced, tattooed girls with army issue backpacks and offered her assistance. I’ll never forget how nice she was. That was my first real impression of Seattle.

I don’t know if I was set to get a tattoo in Seattle or not, but once we got there the urge was overwhelming and it HAD to be Celtic. Did you notice what year this was? But as we know, I don’t necessarily like to follow trends, so it also had to be unique. Non and I spent hours in the bookstore and then hours in the library looking for the perfect design. What I found is something I have yet to see in any other book. The design comes from an artifact. A Celtic carving found on a scabbard discovered I wish I knew exactly where and when. Non and I purchased the thousand page book, took it the tattoo artist, whose name was Hubba Hubba by the way, and then, of course, promptly returned the book.

Hubba Hubba was a, not surprisingly, chubby little man. He sweated profusely as he was tattooing my arm and charged me only fifty bucks. He said, “because your hot”. Uh, ok?

That tattoo is set a little lower on my left arm than your typical armband and is not as ornate as the original photograph (it would have bled into a big blob) and it is, by far, the tattoo I get the most compliments on. Especially from women, for some reason.

All I really remember about the Canada part of our trip are two things. Sitting in the queue on the Greyhound bus waiting to get into Canada and watching a man and a woman run for their dear lives from (or was it to?) the border, and being held at the border when returning to the States. I had a passport (and had no problems), but Non didn’t. We are both brown and I guess they thought she was trying to deport from Canada. Does that even happen?

In honor of the Irish in (or on) all of us I made Irish Lamb Stew and Irish Soda Bread for St. Patty’s Day, with a tiny bit of a Mediterranean twist.


Irish Lamb Stew

Adapted from Epicurious

I went a little heavy on the spices and condiments, but, as you’ll see from the measurements, I’ve given you the option of going a little lighter.

This was, by far, the best stew I’ve ever made.

What you’ll need~

A handful or two of flour to coat your lamb

1/4-1/2 cup olive oil

1-1/2 – 2 lbs lamb from a leg cut into 1-inch pieces

3-4 whole cloves of garlic, peeled

4 cups beef stock

1/2 cup Guinness

1/2 cup red wine

2-4 tablespoons tomato paste

1-2 tablespoons dried sage

1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2-4 bay leaves

3-4 tablespoons Irish butter

6-7 cups russet potatoes, sliced and halved

1 shallot thinly sliced

1 large onion sliced and halved

2 cups carrots cut or chopped into chunks

Fresh parsley

Pat each chunk of lamb dry with a paper towel and then dredge through flour. Heat the olive oil in your largest pot over medium heat. Add lamb and shallots and sauté until brown on all sides. About 5 minutes. Stir in stock, beer, wine, tomato paste, dried sage, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Let cook for an hour stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, melt butter in your next largest pot over medium heat. Add potatoes, onions and carrots. Sauté until veggies are softened and golden. About 20 minutes.
Add vegetables to stew and simmer uncovered for another 40 minutes. You want your lamb to melt like butter on your tongue.

Sprinkle with a handful of parsley and serve hot.

Irish Soda Bread

Adapted from Epicurious

This bread also turned out amazingly well. I used chopped dried figs instead of the traditional currants. Feel free to use whatever dried fruit that turns you on.

What you’ll need~

2 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups whole-wheat flour

1/2-cup raw honey

1-tablespoon baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1-teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup or so Irish butter, cut into cubes

1 cup dried figs, chopped

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs

Preheat your oven to 350 and butter a large loaf pan or two smaller loaf pans. You can also grease a baking sheet and form the dough into a boule.

In a large bowl whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Add butter. Use your fingers to break the butter apart in the flour (one of my favorite things ever). Rub until the flour become coarse and crumby. Stir in dried fig pieces.

In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk and eggs. Briefly warm your honey on the stove or in the microwave until it is just softened. Whisk honey into buttermilk and eggs.

Stir wet mix into flour mixture until well blended.

Pour dough into bread pan(s) and use a small knife to cut and X or X’s into the top.

Bake bread for about an hour and 15 minutes rotating pan halfway through.

Serve with a generous smear of Irish butter.

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Despite Tsunami warnings lining the highway in big flashy lights on Friday, Adam, Adam’s mom, Kathy, and I headed toward the coast for a little adventure/roulette with the ocean. We arrived in the quaint port town of Astoria just after noon and starving to death. Distracted with the horrible events in Japan, we forgot to research what to do and where to eat, so, leaving it to chance, we stopped at the words “Smokehouse”. Because who doesn’t stop in their tracks when confronted with the possibilities of smoked meat. Even better, smoked salmon. Fresh, wild and sustainable, what luck that we randomly picked a restaurant that appeals to our sensibilities. Perhaps restaurant isn’t the right word for Joesphson’s.

When you walk in the door you’re greeted with the smell of fresh fish. And when I say fresh, I mean the fishermen are in the back room gutting (next time I want to tour the facility with my camera) and cleaning that morning’s catch. Walk through the door to the deli area you’ll find shelves and shelves of canned seafood, a couple of cases of smoked seafood to go, and a pair of ladies with big welcoming smiles standing at a tiny stove stirring clam chowder.

Wander a bit more and you’ll find the tiniest dining room in the world. Four, maybe five tables with chairs, a couple of fisherman in rubber boots, and a menu consisting of four items. Yep, four. And that’s all you’ll ever need. Josephson’s charms you with their food.  Paper plates and cups, plastic knives and the best friggin’ salmon burger ever. Freshly made moments before we walked in the door, a smear of mayonnaise on rye bread, also made fresh that morning, this burger is as good as it gets. Adam had the cream-less clam chowder. Big chunks of clams, perfectly pureed potatoes, so delicious and filling I seriously couldn’t tell it was dairy-free. If you go to Astoria, Josephson’s is a must.

Just a two hour drive from Portland, Astoria lies just at the mouth of the Columbia River in the very Northern corner of our state. Just a hop over the Columbia and you’re in Washington. Astoria is one of those places that is hip without the hip. It seems to have perfectly melded the modern coffee culture (boy were there a lot of coffee shops for such a tiny town) with the old school blue-collar port workers and fisherman. Good food, a relaxed vibe, and the cutest little co-op I’ve ever been in, Astoria is one of those places you move to so you can telecommute while watching the ships go by through you’re Victorian bay window.

And then go out for an evening of midget wrestling.

We spent most of the day antiquing (the three of us love to antique), so I didn’t take as many pictures as I normally would have, but hopefully these will give you a tiny taste of Astoria.

Don’t worry, we’ll definitely be going back soon. It’s only been two days and I’m already craving Josephson’s.


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