Dina Cheney

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

Healthier Banana Brownies

Desserts, Edible Gifts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Makes 8

Ripe bananas are the secret ingredient in these moist, rich brownies. The fruit adds sweetness and moisture, which allows for a smaller amount of added oil and sweetener. Plus, these treats are whole-grain! I can assure you - no one will notice the difference!

Nonstick cooking spray

1 four-oz. bar 60% semisweet or dark chocolate, chopped

2 medium-sized ripe bananas

1/2 cup safflower, grapeseed, or vegetable oil

2 large eggs

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and spray an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave, about 1 minute and 20 seconds (microwave in 45 second increments, and stir). Let the chocolate cool to slightly warm. To the melted chocolate, whisk in the bananas, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Use a potato masher to mash the bananas, and stir together the ingredients until well mixed.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, coconut sugar, white sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, and stir together until well-blended (but do not over-mix).
  3. Pour the batter into the greased baking dish, and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out with only a couple of moist crumbs, about 30 minutes (check after 25 minutes). Let cool, chill, and then cut into 8 squares.

Korean Steak Lettuce Wraps with Grilled Peaches

Dinner, LunchDina CheneyComment

Serves 4

Grilled peaches add sweetness and color to grilled steak with a Korean-inspired marinade. Fresh romaine lettuce provides crunch, and gochujang sauce makes everything taste amazing!

½ cup apple juice

¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar

1 TBSP gochujang sauce (plus about 1/4 cup extra for serving)

1 TBSP sesame oil

1 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce

1 heaping TBSP chopped ginger

Scant 2 lbs trimmed skirt or flank steak

Vegetable oil for the grill

Salt to taste

8 romaine lettuce hearts, washed, dried, and chilled

2 cups cooked white sushi rice

1-1/2 cups large dice ripe peaches

2 TBSP thinly sliced scallions, white and light green parts only

  1. Add the juice, vinegar, gochujang, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger, and steak to a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before cooking.
  2. Heat the grill to medium-high, and carefully oil. Pat the steak very dry and season on both sides with salt. Grill until medium-rare or cooked to your liking, turning over halfway through, about 15 minutes total for flank steak or 10 minutes for skirt steak. Let the steak rest for about 10 minutes, then slice thinly on the bias against the grain.
  3. While the steak grills, place the peach chunks on two metal skewers, sprinkle lightly with salt to taste, and grill until the fruit is tender, but still retains its shape, turning over halfway through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Arrange the romaine cups on a large platter. Place some rice in each cup. Top with some steak, grilled peaches, scallions, and a drizzle of gochujang sauce. Serve immediately.

Matcha Granola with Local Strawberries

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Edible Gifts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Makes about 4 1/2 cups

Serve this gorgeous green granola with local strawberries, cherries, or pomegranate seeds, with or without coconut (or dairy) yogurt.

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 cups raw quick oats

1 cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup crystallized ginger, minced

1/4 cup agave nectar

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. matcha powder

  1. Heat olive oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. When warm, add the oats, pumpkin seeds, coconut, and ginger, and cook, stirring, until the oats are coated with the oil, about 3 minutes. Add the agave nectar and salt, and cook, stirring, until the agave nectar evenly coats the oats and the granola is very lightly golden, about another 4 minutes. Stir in the matcha powder.

 

 

Green Grape Slushie

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Drinks, SnackDina CheneyComment

Serves 2

This refreshing three-ingredient dessert or snack is delicious--and sweetener-free!

4 cups seedless green grapes, frozen for at least 3 hours

1 lime, zested and juiced

1/8 tsp salt

  1. To a high-speed blender, add grapes, all of the lime zest, half of the lime juice, and salt. Puree until you achieve a slushy consistency, about 12 seconds. Serve immediately.

Strawberry Cornbread

Breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, SnackDina CheneyComment

Serves 8

This tender quick bread is simple to prepare, and makes ideal use of fresh, local berries. Dairy-free, it is lightly sweetened and wholesome. To make it more decadent, drizzle with pure maple syrup before serving.

Nonstick cooking spray

1 cup cornflour or fine-ground cornmeal

1 cup white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup coconut sugar, brown sugar, or Sucanat

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1-1/2 cups unsweetened vanilla cashew milk

1/4 cup safflower or olive oil

2 large eggs

1 cup halved small hulled strawberries, preferably local

  1. Preheat an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl, whisk together cashew milk, oil, and eggs. Pour the batter into the greased baking dish. Arrange the strawberry halves around the top. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out with just a couple of crumbs, about 35 minutes.

Raw Corn Salad with Avocado, Basil, and Tomato

Side Dish, LunchDina CheneyComment

Serves 4-6

This colorful salad is an ideal side for BBQ fare, such as hot dogs or veggie burgers. Try varying the herbs--sometimes, I'll use fresh parsley or cilantro.

Kernels from 4 medium ears fresh corn (about 3 1/2 cups)

2 medium avocados, diced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup finely chopped or chiffonaded fresh basil leaves

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1- 1/2 Tbsp strained fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)

1 Tbsp white or golden balsamic vinegar

1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt

Fresh-ground black pepper to taste

  1. Add all of the ingredients to a medium-large bowl, and toss together with tongs. Serve immediately.

 

 

 

Chocolate Bark with Raspberries and Mint Sugar

Desserts, Snack, Edible GiftsDina CheneyComment

Serves 4

Super-easy, this recipe can be customized with other toppings. One reader just suggested pistachio nuts and Himalayan pink sea salt. Yum!

1 3/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips, melted

1/4 cup freeze-dried raspberries, crushed

1/4 cup mint sugar**

Pinch sel grise (gray sea salt)

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the freshly melted chocolate onto the parchment and, using a spoon, spread into a rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with the raspberries, mint sugar, and salt. Chill until hardened, at least 30 minutes. Break into pieces, and serve.

**To make 1/2 cup of mint sugar, mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 2-3 Tbsp. minced fresh mint leaves.

Shrimp with Squid Ink Pasta, Smoked Paprika, Butter, and Lemon

Lunch, DinnerDina CheneyComment

Serves 2

The pale pink shrimp stand out against the black pasta. This dish is smoky, fresh, tangy, and buttery all at once. Purchase the shrimp already cleaned, or go for about 1/4 pound extra to do the work yourself.

Kosher salt for the pasta cooking water and shrimp

4 oz. dried squid ink pasta (if you can't find it, go for penne)

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 lb. medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, tails left on

Salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to taste

Dry Sherry to taste, about 1/4 cup

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Zest of 1 lemon (yellow part only)

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

  1. Fill a medium saucepan two-thirds full of water, salt generously, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. When boiling, stir in the pasta, and cook following the package directions, about 7 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the garlic, and saute until aromatic, 1-2 minutes (do not let brown). Add the shrimp, and salt, pepper, and smoked paprika to taste, and saute until just opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the Sherry, and simmer for 3 minutes, until reduced slightly. Stir in the butter and zest, top with the parsley, and serve immediately.

 

Grilled Corn with Old Bay Butter

Lunch, Dinner, Side DishDina CheneyComment

Serves 4-6

Old Bay seasoning makes this simple grilled corn special and delicious.

Safflower oil, for brushing corn and greasing grill

4-6 ears corn

Plenty of salt and pepper

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

  1. Preheat the grill over medium heat. When hot, brush with a vegetable oil-soaked rag (do this quickly to avoid flare-ups).
  2. Brush the corn lightly on all sides with more oil, and season all over generously with salt and pepper. Add to the grill, cover, and cook until tender.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the butter and Old Bay seasoning. Brush the cooked corn with the flavored butter, and serve.

Grilled Whole Branzino with Lemon and Thyme

Lunch, DinnerDina CheneyComment

Serves 2

Don't be intimidated to prepare whole fish at home. Not only is it extremely easy--it's also incredibly delicious, plus healthy. Thanks to the grill, while the skin becomes crispy, the flesh remains tender. If you'd rather not gut and clean out the fish yourself, ask the fishmonger to do it for you. To go DIY, make a slit behind the head and along the belly, and open. Remove the guts, and wash clean. Dry very well inside and out, then season according to the directions below.

2 whole branzino (about 2 lbs.), cut open, guts removed, and dried thoroughly inside and out

Salt and black pepper to taste

Extra virgin olive oil

1 small lemon, thinly sliced

1 small bunch fresh thyme sprigs

Vegetable oil for greasing grill

  1. Season the body cavity of each fish generously with salt and pepper, drizzle with oil, and fill with lemon slices and fresh thyme. Brush both exterior sides of the fish with more olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat a grill until very hot (over high heat). When hot, carefully rub with a vegetable oil-soaked rag (do this very quickly to avoid flare-ups). Add the fish, cover the grill, and cook for 8 minutes. Flip with a large spatula, cover, and cook for another 8 minutes. Serve immediately, removing the bones as you eat the fish.

 

Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes with Cherry Maple Syrup

Breakfast, BrunchDina CheneyComment

Imagine oatmeal raisin cookies, but in pancake form. The cherry maple syrup brings these hearty, largely whole-grain pancakes over-the-top.

Makes 12 medium pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup raw quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats

3 Tbsp. granulated sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. salt

2 cups plain unsweetened soymilk

2 large eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup raisins

Safflower oil, for cooking pancakes

1 cup frozen sweet cherries

1/2 cup maple syrup

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the soymilk, eggs, and vanilla. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, and stir just until combined. Stir in the pecans and raisins.
  2. Brush the inside of a 10-inch nonstick skillet with the oil, and heat over medium. When hot, add four 1/4-cupfuls of batter, and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining three batches of batter, brushing with about 1 tsp. more oil between batches.
  3. Meanwhile, add the cherries and syrup to a small-medium saucepot, and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, until warm.
  4. Serve the pancakes with the cherry maple syrup.

 

 

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

Brunch, DessertsDina CheneyComment

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.