Heirloom Tomato Galette

Taking full advantage of the peak of tomato season, I purchased some beautiful heirloom tomatoes at the farmer's market this morning. There were pre-made pie crusts in my refrigerator that were nearing their expiration date, so I decided to make a couple of galettes. Galettes are so easy to throw together with fresh ingredients you have on hand and look rustically beautiful. 

This galette makes a perfect appetizer or summer side with grilled chicken and a corn salad. I had it cooling on the counter when my daughter and her friend returned home from a trip and it was the perfect bite after their travels. They loved it!

Heirloom Tomato Galette

One store-bought pie crust (or you could make your own)
 pounds heirloom tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 oz firm cheese like Gruyere or Gouda, finely grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 large egg, beaten 
1 teaspoon kosher salt
flaky sea salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped chives or thyme

Preheat oven to 400°. Gently toss tomatoes, garlic and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl. Let sit 5 minutes (tomatoes will start releasing some liquid). Drain tomato mixture and transfer to paper towels.
Unroll room temperature dough and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Scatter cheese over dough, leaving a 1½"" border. Arrange tomatoes and garlic over cheese. Bring edges of dough over filling, overlapping as needed to create border; brush with egg. Sprinkle tomatoes and edge of crust with flaky sea salt and tomatoes with pepper as well. Chill in freezer 10 minutes.

Bake galette until crust is golden brown and cooked through, approximately 40 minutes. Let cool slightly and sprinkle with herbs. Enjoy!

Scatter shredded cheese on dough
Dry tomatoes on paper towels

Galette ready for the oven!

Cut a slice and enjoy!



Homemade Onion Dip (Gluten Free)

Gathering for an Easter Celebration at my parents' house with most of my family felt like such a special gift this year!  We dearly missed my daughters and nephew, but it felt very special to be together in a way we have not been for over a year! Most of our family has been vaccinated, but since not all of us are yet, we continued Covid protocols by wearing masks and eating distanced between families outside.

I brought this tasty Homemade Onion Dip that paired perfectly with fresh veggies from my farm box as an appetizer. Whenever I host meals for my extended family, I always try to keep in mind making menu items gluten-free in consideration of my sweet sister-in-law who is gluten intolerant, as are many, so this is an easy alternative to store dip mixes that often include gluten. Just toss the ingredients together a few hours before serving and you have a fabulous gluten-free dip for your veggies or chips!

Homemade Onion Dip (Gluten free)

1 tablespoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons granulated beef bouillon
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1 cup sour cream

Combine all ingredients in bowl and refrigerate. After two hours, stir and serve with fresh vegetables or ridged potato chips. Yum~


Thai Curry Meatballs

When I saw this recipe on instagram, I was inspired to make it that same day and it was delicious! I shared some with my Auntie and she thoroughly enjoyed it, too. The generous amount of spices that are included in the meatballs as well as the sauce make it very rich and flavorful. And you gotta love how it takes only about half an hour to make all in one pot!
The meatballs ready to be baked in the oven

The Final Dish


1 pound ground turkey, chicken, or pork

3 scallions, thinly sliced, divided

1/3 cup almond flour/meal

1 large egg

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 1/2 tablespoons curry powder, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder, divided

1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, divided

1 tablespoon Whole30 compatible cooking oil

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk

1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 tablespoon coconut aminos

Juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 cups de-stemmed, roughly chopped kale

1 cup green peas (you can use frozen /the fresh bag of TJ's english peas were great)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a large bowl, combine ground meat, 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions, 1/3 cup almond flour, 1 large egg, salt,

1 tbsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, and 1/2 tsp ground ginger. Create 10 meatballs and place on an

oiled ovenproof skillet, such as a cast iron. Add the thinly sliced bell pepper and a bit of oil.

Roast for 10 minutes.

Place on the stovetop and add coconut milk, drained tomatoes, 1 tablespoon coconut aminos, the juice of

1 lime, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1 1/2 tablespoons curry

powder. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until meatballs are cooked through.

Stir in the kale and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until wilted. Add the green peas and simmer for another minute

or two, until bright green.

Garnish with scallions and serve over steamed rice or riced cauliflower. Yum!

source: adapted from caroline chambers


Super Easy Homemade Bread

Although I have slowed down on my bread making days, I felt I had to include this recipe on Keeping It Real With Joy because it just represents what my blog is all about - easy to make, uncomplicated food that tastes good. My son loves this bread- he enjoys a chunk of it out of the oven slathered with butter and honey and then makes sandwiches with thinner slices after it has cooled. Clearly I may need bigger loaf pans, but they were still delicious!

Easy Homemade Bread

2 ½ cups milk
¼ cup butter
⅓ cup honey
2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp salt
5-7 cups all-purpose flour (add 5 cups to start and as you blend, add 1/2 cup more at a time until the dough gets stiff)

Heat the milk, butter and honey in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Stir and heat for another 45 seconds. Make sure liquid has cooled to luke warm before you mix with flour.

Pour the milk mixture into a large bowl or in a heavy duty mixer. Add the yeast, egg, salt and enough flour to stir together to make a moderately stiff dough. Knead for about 6 minutes by hand or in a bread mixer.

Generously grease two bread pans.  Form dough into 2 loaves and place in pans. Cover with a dishtowel. Let dough rise until doubled. 

Bake at 350°F for 30 to 35 minutes on the middle rack, until browned on top. Enjoy!

This bread toasted makes tasty sandwiches!


Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip- Socially Distanced Entertaining

I am so incredibly grateful for our deck and temperate weather in California during this crazy covid living episode we are all trying our best to live through. As I mentioned, we have just started inviting friends to join us on our deck and I am trying to get creative with ways to serve appetizers in individual servings. Tonight we entertained dear friends with whom we lived together in Philadelphia and shared life changing experiences in our children's educational lives, our professional lives and person perspectives on our new world. I was happy to offer these Individual Spinach Artichoke Dips with healthy crudite and a side of sliced sourdough as an appetizer during our interesting conversations.

Hot Spinach Artichoke Dip

15 ounces fresh spinach, sauteed and chopped or 1 cup frozen spinach thawed and drained
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces cream cheese
1/3 sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 Gruyere cheese, grated (reserve 2 tablespoons for sprinkling on top)

If using fresh spinach, saute with 1 T olive oil until soft, drain and squeeze out liquid, then chop.  Put cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic  and cayenne in bowl and blend with hand mixer until fluffy. Add Parmesan cheese, Gruyere and spinach and mix until combined. Sprinkle with a bit of Gruyere on top to make a nice crust.
Bake in individual ramekins or in one small baking dish at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until bubbling. Serve with sliced baguette, crudite or crackers. Enjoy!


Pasta Bar for a Crowd

Pasta Bars are a fabulous way to feed a crowd. When my brother-in-law and his kids came to visit us earlier this summer, this made many of our peeps happy because everyone could tailor the bowls to their taste- some liked pesto, a few preferred Alfredo, some piled on veggies of sauteed mushrooms and steamed broccoli and others had just Italian sausage with red sauce. Having a variety of different styles of pasta made it fun as well. And everyone loved the garlic knots!

Pasta Bar for a Crowd 

  • Pasta- I served fresh linguine, fresh ravioli plus dried gemeli (1 pound of each for 9 people with some leftovers)
  • Alfredo (you could make your own, but I made it simple with Rana Alfedo)
  • Pesto (you could make your own, but I used Rana Pesto)
  • Marinara Sauce (I like Rao's Homemade Marinara)
  • steamed broccoli
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • browned Italian sausage
  • grated Parmesan
  • Garlic Knots


Focaccia Art

It's amazing how creative people have been getting with baking during these longs days of staying safe at home due quarantine requirements. I made plain focaccia in the early days but after I saw focaccia art popping up on Instagram, I knew I eventually wanted to try it out! It was very fun to make a little scene atop the focaccia with fresh veggies and herbs and they actually add additional yummy flavors to the finished bread.
Before Baking

Baked Focaccia Art

Focaccia Art

  • 1 recipe focaccia bread- I used the Bon Appetite Recipe for Easy No-Knead Focaccia Bread
  • veggies and herbs of choice- I used baby bell peppers, small zucchini, yellow squash, kalamata olives, chives, thyme, oregano leaves, shallots

Before baking the focaccia, place vegetables on top of the bread. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with flaked sea salt. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.
Serve with sliced cheese and meats for an easy appetizer.

Original plain focaccia I made before I learned about making art out of it!


Chicken Shawarma

When our girls came home from college for a few weeks this summer, we invited my parents to join our family for dinner on the deck.  Chicken Shawarma was a huge hit with everyone! The grilled chicken thighs were marinated overnight with a tasty spice mixture and served with homemade tzatziki, warm naan bread, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, romaine lettuce and hummus on the side. Everyone made a shawarma sandwich or bowl tailored to their own tastes by folding chicken and whichever toppings they wanted in the naan bread, or topping their bowl of lettuce with cukes, tomatoes, chicken and drizzled with tzatziki. 

Chicken Shawarma

Marinade Ingredients:
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper

2.5 pounds chicken thighs, trimmed

Additional ingredients to complete the meal:
2-3 Persian cucumbers, cubed
1 box cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
naan (warmed in 400 degree oven on an oiled baking sheet, sprinkled with a little water for 2-3 minutes) 
or pita bread
chopped romaine lettuce
tzatziki (recipe below)

Combine marinade ingredients in large plastic ziplock bag or bowl. Add chicken thighs and marinade for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours. Grill over medium grill until brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Slice into thin pieces and serve with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, shredded romaine lettuce, warmed naan, and tzatziki or hummus drizzled on top. Alternatively, you can make a Chicken Shawarma bowl by topping a bowl of romaine lettuce with all the fixings and drizzle with tzatziki. 


1.5 cups plain Greek yogurt (2% or full fat)
1 medium English cucumber, grated and squeezed of excess moisture
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (dried works if you don't have fresh)
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Serve as a dressing for Chicken Shawarma or as a dip with crudités .


Greek Salad Bites

Looking for a fresh and easy appetizer? These little bites taste like a mini greek salad on a stick and are a cinch to prepare. They look pretty, too!

Greek Salad Bites

1 persian cucumber, sliced in half rounds
kalamata olives, pitted
cherry tomaotes
chunk of feta cheese, cubed

Assemble ingredients on fun toothpicks and enjoy!


Yummy Bean Dip

Last night I hosted a fun socially distanced get-together of dear friends on my deck and it was the first time people other than family had been in my backyard since the Covid crisis hit. How awesome it was to be with friends again other than on walks or bike rides together! In an effort to be careful, I made separate plates of appetizers for each of us to enjoy. One of the appetizers I made were these ramekins of delicious bean dip with chips. The recipe makes more than enough for a few ramekins, so I put the remainder in a small square baking dish for my husband and son to enjoy. You and your guests are going to love it!

Yummy Bean Dip

  • 4 ounces softened cream cheese 
  • 16 ounce can refried beans 
  • ½ package taco seasoning 
  • 4 ounce can diced mild green chiles, drained
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 green onions 
  • ¼ cup chopped jarred jalapeños 
  • 2 cups cheddar cheese 

  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Slice green onions dividing the white and green portions. Set the green part aside. 

  • Combine cream cheese, refried beans, taco seasoning and sour cream with a hand mixer until combined. Add the whites of the onions, jalapeños, chiles and 1 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese.

  • Spread into a 2qt (8"x8") baking dish or into 4 individual ramekins and the remainder in a small baking dish. Top with remaining cheese and bake 20-25 minutes until hot and cheese is melted. Garnish with remaining green onions.

  • Serve with tortilla chips or cut vegetables.