Dina Cheney

Cookbook Author, Freelance Writer and Recipe Developer, Food Stylist and Photographer

Lavender Brownies

DessertsDina CheneyComment

Fresh lavender adds a special floral note to these tender, rich brownies. They puff on the edges and collapse a bit in the center, resulting in a fudgy interior. 

Serves 8

Nonstick cooking spray

Scant pound high-quality milk chocolate, chopped

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup safflower or vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tsp. minced fresh lavender

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a roughly 7x11-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Add a couple of inches of water to a medium-large saucepot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Place the chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl, and position over the boiling water. Reduce the heat to medium. Keep the bowl atop the simmering water until the chocolate melts. Carefully remove the hot bowl from the heat, and whisk in the butter until it melts. Let the mixture cool slightly, and whisk in the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth (don't add the eggs too soon, or they will cook).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, lavender, baking powder, salt, and baking soda until well-blended. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, and stir just until combined. Pour the batter into the greased baking dish. 
  3. Bake until only a few moist crumbs remain on a cake tester or knife when placed into the center of the brownies, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, slice, and serve.



Apricot Lavender Tart

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Serves 6

Feel free to vary the fruit and the herbs in this beautiful summer tart. 

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided

1 tsp salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, diced and chilled

3-4 Tbsp ice water

1 lb. small ripe apricots, halved and pitted

1-1/2 tsp. minced fresh lavender

1 oz. milk chocolate, melted

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and salt until well mixed. Add the butter, and crumble together until a few pea-sized pieces remain. Add the water, and mix with your hands just until a loose dough comes together. Transfer to a large piece of plastic wrap, cover, and form into a 1-inch-thick disk. Chill in the fridge until very cold, at least 2 hours.
  2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to the parchment and roll out into a circle about 1/2-inch-thick. Place the apricot halves in the center, leaving a roughly 3/4-inch border around the fruit. Sprinkle the fruit evenly with the remaining 3 Tablespoons of sugar and the lavender. Roll the dough edges over the fruit to secure.
  3. Bake until the fruit is tender and the crust is lightly golden brown, about 45 minutes. Serve, drizzling the slices with the chocolate. 


Brown Butter Pecan Toast with Cinnamon

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Makes 1

Brown butter intensifies the nutty flavor of this breakfast treat.

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 slice whole-wheat bread, toasted

1 Tbsp. pecans, lightly toasted and chopped

1 tsp. honey

1 pinch each ground cinnamon and salt

  1. Add the butter to a small saute pan, and heat over medium, until melted. Cook until the butter turns very light brown in color, about another 2 minutes.
  2. Drizzle brown butter over the slice of bread. Sprinkle toast with the nuts, honey, salt, and cinnamon. Serve.

Pappardelle with Black Truffles

LunchDina CheneyComment

Serves 4-6

Black truffle paste (a splurge at about $20) makes this simple, decadent dish shine.

Lots of kosher salt, for the pasta cooking water

l lb. dried pappardelle pasta

4 oz. jarred black truffle paste

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, or to taste

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Add lots of salt to a large pot filled two-thirds full of water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the pasta, and cook following the package directions, about 10 minutes. Ladle about 1/3 cup of pasta cooking water into a measuring cup and set aside. Drain the pasta into a colander in the sink.
  2. Pour the drained pasta and pasta cooking water into the cooking pot, and stir in the truffle paste, cheese, butter, and black pepper. Toss with tongs until the butter and cheese melt. Serve immediately.


Avocado Toast with Mango Pico de Gallo

Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, SnackDina CheneyComment

Makes 4 Toasts

I kept these mild for my kids. However, feel free to add 1 tsp minced jalapeno to the salsa. You can also finish the toasts with a sprinkle of chili powder. Yum!

1 medium avocado

2 Tbsp fresh, strained lime juice, divided (about 1 small lime)

1/2 tsp salt, divided

1 ripe mango, diced (about 1 cup)

1 medium tomato, seeded and diced (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (about 1/4 small onion)

4 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted

  1. To a small bowl, add the avocado, half of the lime juice, and half of the salt. Mash well. In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining lime juice, remaining salt, mango, tomato, and onion.
  2. Spread the avocado mixture on the four slices of bread, and top with the tomato-mango salsa. Serve immediately.

Apricots with Amaretto and Honey

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Serves 4

For the most intense flavor, let the fruits marinate in the liqueur and honey for about 1 hour. Consider topping with whipped coconut cream, ice cream, or yogurt.

8-10 small ripe apricots, pitted and halved

2 tbsp amaretto

1 tbsp honey

3 tbsp pistachios, lightly toasted

  1. Arrange the apricot halves in a small serving dish or bowl. Drizzle with the amaretto and honey, and stir to macerate. Sprinkle with the pistachios, and serve.

White Apricot and Pistachio Tart

Desserts, Brunch, BreakfastDina CheneyComment

Serves 4 (Makes 1 small tart)

If you can't find ambrosia-sweet white apricots, opt for ripe traditional orange apricots. Just brush with 1/4 cup, rather than 2 tbsp, of honey. I prefer my tarts not ultra-sweet; however, you can always up the sugar in the crust by 1 tbsp. Try varying this recipe with peaches or strawberries.

1 cup plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick unsalted butter, diced and chilled

3 tbsp ice water

1 large egg, whisked

6 ripe small white apricots, pitted and halved

2 tbsp honey

3 tbsp pistachios, chopped

  1. In a medium-large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and, using your hands, crumble together into very coarse meal (you still want some pea-size or slightly larger pieces of butter).
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the ice water and egg. Add to the dry mixture, and knead just until combined (do not over-mix). Gather the dough into a ball, and place in the middle of a large piece of plastic wrap. Cover the dough with the plastic, and flatten into a disk. Chill until very cold, at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and place a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to the parchment paper, and roll out into a circle roughly 1/4-inch-thick and seven inches in diameter. Arrange the apricot halves in the center (leave a 1/2-inch border around the fruit), and gently press over the edges of the fruit to seal the tart.
  4. Brush the fruit evenly with the honey, and sprinkle evenly with the pistachios. Bake until the pastry crust becomes golden brown and the fruit tender, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Whole-Wheat Pancakes

Breakfast, Brunch, SnackDina CheneyComment

Serves 4

These special-occasion, nourishing, dairy-free pancakes are delicious as is. However, feel free to serve with maple syrup or a drizzle of melted dark chocolate. For variation, try cashew, hazelnut, or almond milk instead of coconut milk.

2 cups whole-wheat flour, traditional or white whole-wheat

2 tbsp white sugar

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups plain unsweetened coconut milk, canned or refrigerated beverage

2 large eggs

2 tbsp safflower oil, plus extra for cooking pancakes, divided

1 tsp vanilla extract

About 3 oz dark chocolate (preferably around 60%), chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans

About 12 oz fresh blueberries and raspberries, for serving

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, 2 tsp of the safflower oil, and vanilla. Pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture, and stir just until combined. Add the chocolate and pecans, and stir just until combined.
  2. Brush the inside of a 10-inch nonstick skillet with 1 tbsp of oil, and heat over medium. When warm, add three or four 1/4-cup-each dollops of batter, and cook until the first side is golden brown, about two minutes. Flip and cook the other side until similarly golden brown, about another two minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, brushing with another tbsp of oil between batches. (If the pancakes turn too dark, reduce the heat to medium-low. Due to the sweetness of the chocolate, they have a lower smoking point than plain pancakes.)
  3. Divide pancakes amongst four plates, and top with fresh berries. Serve immediately.

Meyer Lemon Muffins

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Makes 12

These muffins are delicious slathered with fresh blueberry or strawberry preserves. If you can't find Meyer lemons, use traditional lemons--just up the sugar by a couple of Tablespoons.

Nonstick cooking spray

1 -1/2 cups plain unsweetened coconut milk

2 large eggs

1/2 stick unsalted butter or vegan butter, melted

2 tbsp minced fresh Meyer lemon zest, yellow part only

1 tbsp fresh, strained Meyer lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12-well muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, eggs, butter, zest, juice, and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Dollop the batter evenly amongst the wells in the muffin pan.
  4. Bake until only a couple of crumbs cling to a cake tester when poked into the center of a muffin, about 25 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Seared Apple Cinnamon Toast

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment


Makes 4 toasts

In this simple breakfast, brunch, snack, or healthy dessert, seared cinnamon-laced apple slices top crispy slices of toast. Delicious for adults and kids alike!

2 tbsp unsalted butter or vegan butter

2 large apples, cored and sliced

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

2 tbsp honey

4 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted

  1. Melt the butter in a 10-inch skillet (not non-stick) over medium heat. Once melted, add the apples, cinnamon, and salt, and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the honey, and simmer for another minute.
  2. Divide the apple slices atop the 4 slices of bread.

Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango, Lime, and Honey

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Ripe mangoes inspired my take on the classic Thai dessert, coconut sticky rice with mango. This 6-ingredient recipe is simple to prepare--and delicious as a breakfast, dessert, or snack.

Makes 4 servings (each 1 cup of rice)

2 cups plain unsweetened coconut milk, refrigerated beverage or canned

Zest of 2 small limes, all white pith removed, minced, divided

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sushi rice (white)

2 tbsp honey, plus another tsp for drizzling

2 ripe mangoes, sliced

  1. Add coconut milk, 2 cups water, 3/4 of the zest, and the salt to a medium saucepot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately stir in the rice. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for another 10 minutes. Stir in 2 tbsp of the honey. Ladle into 4 small-medium serving bowls.
  2. Top each serving with mango slices, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 of the minced lime zest, and drizzle evenly with the remaining tsp honey. Serve.


Key Lime Cheesecake Graham Crackers with Oranges

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment


Here, fresh orange segments top lime- and honey-laced cream cheese. The base? Slightly sweet graham crackers. My sons devoured this breakfast/snack/light dessert in 5 minutes flat!

Makes 6

1/4 cup cream cheese

1 tbsp honey

1 1/2 tsp freshly-grated lime zest

1 1/2 tsp fresh, strained lime juice

6 graham crackers

2 navel oranges, segmented

  1. In a small bowl, stir together cream cheese, honey, lime zest, and lime juice. Slather evenly on graham crackers. Top with orange segments, and serve immediately.



Darjeeling Tea-Poached Apricot

Breakfast, Brunch, Eggs, SnackDina CheneyComment

In this simple dish, inspired by a recipe in my recent book, MUG MEALS, you can have your caffeine and breakfast in one. First, eat the tender poached apricot, and then drink the sweetened Darjeeling. Delicious! In this photo, I surrounded the tea-poached apricot (in the mug) with 9-minute boiled eggs and summer fruit salad with edible flowers.

Serves 1

1 cup unsweetened brewed Darjeeling tea

1 TBSP agave nectar (or more to taste)

1 ripe apricot

  1. Add the brewed tea, agave nectar, and whole apricot to a microwave-safe mug. Cover and microwave on high until the fruit is tender, about 2 minutes. Enjoy, but discard the apricot pit!

"PB&J" Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Makes 15 strawberries

This 5-minute recipe is a delicious dessert or snack. Instead of preserves, fresh berries supply the jam flavor in this playful, decadent take on PB&J.

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 TBSP salted peanut butter

15 fresh strawberries, washed and patted dry

  1. In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate chips until melted, about 1 minute. Stir in the peanut butter, until smooth.
  2. Dip each strawberry in the chocolate mixture and transfer to a parchment- or wax paper-lined baking sheet. Chill until the chocolate has set, at least 1 hour.


Grilled "Apricot Melba" Toast with Fresh Raspberry Sauce and Pumpkin Seeds

Breakfast, Desserts, Snack, BrunchDina CheneyComment

Here, tart-sweet grilled apricots meet fresh raspberry sauce and crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds. Also try with peaches or plums.

Serves 4 (Makes ¾ cup raspberry sauce)

1 TBSP safflower oil

4 ripe apricots, halved and pitted

¼ plus 1/8 tsp salt, divided

2 TBSP plus 1 tsp agave nectar, divided

6 oz fresh raspberries

1 ½ tsp fresh, strained lemon juice

8 slices whole-wheat bread, toasted

2 TBSP pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted

  1. Heat a grill or grill pan over medium-high. Brush with the oil. When hot, add the apricots, and sprinkle evenly with 1/8 tsp. of the salt. Grill for about 4 minutes. Flip and sprinkle with another 1/8 tsp. of the salt. Grill for another 4-6 minutes, until the apricots are tender and feature grill marks. Brush the apricots with 1 teaspoon of the agave nectar.
  2. Add the raspberries, lemon juice, remaining 2 TBSP agave nectar, and remaining 1/8 tsp salt to a blender, and puree until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain.
  3. Divide bread amongst four plates. Top each slice with an apricot half, drizzle with some raspberry sauce, and sprinkle with some seeds. Serve immediately.

Avocado Toast with Gochujang and a Fried Egg

Breakfast, Eggs, Snack, LunchDina CheneyComment

In this avocado toast, Korean gochujang sauce and a fried egg add color and richness. If you can't find gochujang, opt for Sriracha or hot sauce.

Makes 1

1 tsp olive oil

1 large egg

1/2 medium avocado, mashed

3/4 tsp fresh, strained lime juice

1/8 tsp plus 1 pinch salt, divided

1 slice whole wheat bread, freshly toasted

½ tsp gochujang sauce

½ tsp finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

  1. Brush the inside of a small nonstick skillet with oil, and heat over medium-high. When hot, crack the egg into a ramekin, and then pour into the skillet. Cook until the egg white turns opaque and slightly golden around the edges, 2-3 minutes. Cover the skillet, and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the yolk is done to your liking, 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Set aside off of the heat.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together the avocado, lime, and 1/8 tsp salt, and spread on the bread. Top the avocado spread with the fried egg, and sprinkle the egg with the remaining pinch of salt. Drizzle with the gochujang sauce, and sprinkle with the cilantro.

Matcha Peach Ice Pops

Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Matcha green tea powder lends these refreshing vegan ice pops antioxidants and a gorgeous green hue.

Makes 10

  • 2 ¾ cups unsweetened frozen peaches (1 10-oz bag)
  • 1 3/4 cups plain unsweetened coconut milk beverage
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp matcha powder
  1. Add the first four ingredients to a blender. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 TBSP very hot water and the matcha until well mixed, and scrape into the blender. Puree until smooth, about 1 minute.
  2. Pour into a 10-pop ice pop mold, cover, and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

Strawberry Coconut Smoothies

Drinks, SnackDina CheneyComment

These bright, refreshing smoothies are vegan, dairy-free, and full of flavor. For the most intense strawberry flavor, look for small, local berries.

Makes about 5 cups

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, preferably local (hulled)
  • 2 cups plain unsweetened coconut milk beverage
  • 3 large ice cubes
  • 3 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  •  teaspoon salt
  1. Add all of the ingredients to a high-speed blender, and puree until smooth, about 1 minute. 

Strawberry-Tarragon Preserves

Breakfast, Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Be sure to use fresh, sweet strawberries, ideally local. Smaller berries tend to be more flavorful. 

Makes 2 cups

  • 3 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries (ideally local), hulled
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon, strained
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  1. Place the tarragon on a small piece of cheesecloth, form into a bundle, and secure with kitchen twine. Add to a heavy medium saucepot, along with the other ingredients. Mash with a potato masher until halfway broken down. Simmer on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 2 cups, about 30 minutes.