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!


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.



Iced Sweet Passion Herbal Tea

We are still staying close to home and I have yet to venture to Starbucks to get coffee or cold drinks. This is a great Starbucks Passion Tea hack to make in your own kitchen- refreshing and delicious!

Iced Sweet Passion Herbal Tea

5 cups water, close to boiling temperature
6 bags TAZO Passion Herbal Tea
juice of 1 lemon
truvia to taste
2 cups ice
Steep tea packets in hot water for 6 minutes. Add the lemon juice and truvia to level of sweetness you prefer. Pour over ice. Enjoy!


Huli Huli Chicken with Turmeric Rice

It's grilling and dinner on the deck season! Huli Huli chicken is one of my family's favorites. Serve with Tumeric Rice, green veggies and slices of pineapple for a sweet and flavorful dinner perfect for summer nights.

Huli Huli Chicken
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup rice vinegar or cider vinegar
1 inch piece peeled, grated ginger
2-3 minced garlic cloves
2 pounds boneless chicken thighs
green onions for garnish

In a large bowl or a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, combine the ketchup, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, ginger and garlic, and stir or shake until combined. Reserve and refrigerate 1/2 cup of the mixture for basting the chicken later. Add the chicken to the remaining mixture, and stir or shake until evenly coated.  Refrigerate overnight, or at least 8 hours, turning the chicken at least once.

Heat the grill to medium and oil grates. Add the chicken to the grill, cover, and cook approximately 5 minutes per side and basting it with the reserved marinade after you turn it.  Garnish with sliced green onions. Enjoy!

Turmeric Rice

1 cups basmati or jasmine rice
1 Tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 cups broth

Stove Top

In a medium pot, combine the basmati rice and all other ingredient. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer (covered) for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for another 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork and serving.

Rice Cooker

Combine the basmati rice and all other ingredients. Cook using the 'white rice' function (or regular function if there is not a white rice option). Fluff with a fork and enjoy!


Roasted Vegetables

Roasted vegetables are my go-to for dinner accompaniment. They are so easy to toss on a sheet pan, sprinkle with olive oil and a bit of salt and garlic powder resulting in the perfect side dish to meat, chicken and fish! You can really combine any veggies you like...tonight I added crinkled butternut squash with brussels and red onions with a bit of thyme and voila~ deliciousness!

Roasted Vegetables

1 pound brussel sprouts, cut in half
3/4 pound sliced butternut squash (I used Trader Joe's crinkle cut butternut squash)
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
garlic poweder
fresh thyme

Toss brussel sprouts, butternut squash and red onion on large baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Roast in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes, tossing half way through. Enjoy!


Homemade Rosemary Garlic Bread

Have you ever made homemade bread? This was my second attempt and it was so worth the effort! Given the amount of time some of us spend in the house these days, we can try a few more laborious cooking projects. This recipe is actually very easy, has only two "rising" periods and no kneading! Your house smells delicious as they come out of the oven and the recipe makes two big loaves- one for your family and one to give away!

Rosemary Garlic Bread


  • 2 cups warm tap water, about 110 degrees (I used an instant read meat thermometer)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • 2 3/4 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used spelt flour)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup fresh rosemary, chopped (I used less as my backyard plant was not very full!)
  • 4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup flour for dusting the loaves
  • Cornmeal for the pans
  • 2 small cookie sheets or a large (at least 11×17-inch) jelly roll pan


  1. To make the dough, in a small bowl or glass measuring cup place water and sprinkle yeast on surface, allowing it to stand for three minutes before whisking. After dissolved, whisk in the olive oil. To mix dough in a full-sized food processor, place 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, garlic, rosemary, and salt in bowl of the food processor fitted with a dough blade.
  2. Add water, oil, and yeast mixture and process to form a smooth, elastic and slightly sticky dough, about 45 seconds. Incorporate the remaining 1/4 cup all-purpose flour a tablespoon at time if the dough is too soft.
  3. Place dough in an oiled bowl and turn dough over so top is oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled.
  4. To shape loaves, scrape risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it to deflate it. Divide dough in half and shape one piece at a time. Press dough into a square, then roll it up tightly. Rotate cylinder of dough 90 degrees and roll up again from short end. Arrange dough seam side down, cover with plastic or a towel and let it rest of 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.
  5. Dust pan with cornmeal. Roll each piece of dough under palms of your hands to elongate it. Work from middle of loaf outward, pointing the ends slightly. Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheets and dust each loaf heavily with flour, using about 1/4 cup in all. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise until doubled.
  6. About 30 minutes before you intend to bake the loaves, preheat oven to 500 degrees F and set racks at the middle and lowest levels. Set a pan on the lowest rack to absorb some of the excess bottom heat and keep the bottom of the loaves from burning.
  7. Holding a razor blade or the point of a very sharp knife at a 30-degree angle to the top of each loaf, make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes in each loaf. Immediately place loaves in oven and lower temperature 450 degrees F. After loaves have baked for 20 minutes and are completely risen, lower temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking about 20 to 30 minutes longer, until bread reaches an internal temperature of about 210-220 degrees F. Remove loaves from oven and cool on a rack. Enjoy!
Fresh from the oven ready to cool

Perfect to serve with soup!


Chicken Soup from Scratch

Chicken soup means comfort and healing, two things we need during these crazy days while the world is reeling.  I just wish I could make a batch of this for all health care workers out there working their hardest to help heal the sick. I tried the  New York Times Cooking version that takes a little more time, but is so worth the flavor at the end.

Ingredients for stock
1 chicken, 3 to 3 1/2 pounds, with skin
3 stalks celery, with leaves, cut into chunks 
2 large carrots, cut into chunks 
2 yellow onions, peeled and halved 
About 1 dozen large sprigs parsley 
About 1 dozen black peppercorns
 2 bay leaves
 2 teaspoons kosher salt, more to taste 

Ingredients for soup
3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat, more if needed 
3 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed and sliced crosswise into thin half-moons
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
Kosher salt and ground black or white pepper
Egg noodles (fresh or dried)
Finely chopped herbs, such as parsley, scallions or dill

1. Place the chicken, celery, carrots, onions, parsnip, parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt in a large soup pot and cover with cold water by 1 inch. 

2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to very low. Adjust the heat until the soup is “smiling”: barely moving on the surface, with an occasional bubble breaking through. Cook uncovered, until the chicken is very tender and falling off the bone, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. 

3. When cool enough to handle, use tongs to transfer chicken from the pot to a container. Taste the broth and continue to simmer it until it is concentrated and tasty. Strain broth through a sieve (or a colander lined with cheesecloth) into a separate container. Discard all the solids from the strainer.

 4. Refrigerate chicken pieces and broth separately for at least 8 hours (or up to 3 days), until a thick layer of yellow fat has risen to the top of the broth.

 5. When ready to finish the soup, use your fingers to separate chicken breast meat from bones and skin. Discard bones and skin. Use two forks to pull the breast meat apart into soft chunks, or use a knife and cut into bite-size pieces. (Reserve dark meat for another use.)

 6. Skim chicken fat from top of broth and set aside. Place 3 tablespoons of the fat in a soup pot with a lid. Add leeks, stir to coat, and heat over medium heat until leeks begin to fry. Then reduce the heat to a gentle sizzle and cook, stirring often, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. 

7. Add carrots, sprinkle with salt, stir, and cover the pot. Cook until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes more. (Keep in mind that vegetables will continue to cook in the soup.) 

8. Pour broth into pot with vegetables and heat to a simmer. Add noodles and simmer until heated through, soft and plumped. Add the breast meat, then taste broth and add salt and pepper to taste. For best flavor, soup should have some golden droplets of fat on top; if needed, add more chicken fat one teaspoon at a time.

 9. Serve immediately sprinkling each serving with herbs.