Kitchen shortcuts my Nunna would kick me for

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One of the most cherished memories I have of my paternal grand-parents is visiting them as a teenager with my dad. Like many Italians, my Nunna ( Nonna is the Italian word for ‘grandma’ and Nunna was our Americanized version of it.) had two kitchens. One in the normal, upstairs location on the main floor of her house and the other, in the basement. I used to love to sit for hours watching her cook in the downstairs kitchen, taking in the aromas of sizzling meat, garlic sauteing and other culinary wonders. She also had shelves and shelves full of mason jars that contained her family-famous hot peppers! (I was blessed to get the recipe and make them with my own garden produce every year!) Not only do many Italians have two kitchens, they also have something else in common: They never measure ingredients. Everything is homemade, with a little pinch of this and a spoonful of that. My Nunna would be pretty ticked at me if she were still with us and knew of some of the kitchen shortcuts I’ve taken to lately.

My kitchen shortcuts include un-stuffed cabbage

For years, I put forth laborious effort to stuff each individual cabbage leaf. With a family size that the average person might consider large (I was often feeding 10 to 12 people.), stuffing the cabbage took quite some time. I would never have even considered doing it any other way. In fact, I didn’t know there was another way to do it! Imagine my surprise, then, when a friend once asked me why I stand there stuffing cabbage leaf after cabbage leaf when I could just make un-stuffed cabbage instead. Un-stuffed cabbage? Whatever do you mean?  How can there be such a thing? LOL

My friend gave me a recipe for un-stuffed cabbage. There was still a tiny bit of handiwork involved in that you had to form ginormous meatballs of the beef/rice mixture to set in a baking pan. And, you have to shred the cabbage, but food processors with a grating add-on make that super easy! The rest of the ingredients are mixed and poured into the baking dish, over top the meatballs. It’s delicious and takes much less time than stuffing individual cabbage leaves! It quickly became one of my favorite kitchen shortcuts, but I know my Nunna would think I was crazy for doing it. Stuffed cabbage is supposed to be stuffed, not un-stuffed, she’d say. I can hear her beautiful, broken English in my mind and imagine her pointing at me, saying, “You no do right.”

Kitchen shortcuts number two: Already-made pie crusts

In my own defense, I often still make homemade pie crusts. However, more times than I’d admit to my Nunna, I use already-made pie crusts from the store. It’s one of several products where I won’t use a generic or store brand because I find that they slide down into the pie pan. I use a certain brand and my family is always satisfied with the taste. My excuses are that life is busy. I have a job. (Granted, I work from home but it’s still work.) I homeschool my children, and I do all the other bajillion things that the average stay-at-home mom does on a daily basis. I’ve been a parent for almost 37 years. Using an already-made pie crust feels like a great luxury or indulgence.

If I have plenty of time and I’m not too tired, I enjoy making homemade crusts. My girls often help me, and I cherish our time in the kitchen together. But, when I don’t have time or simply don’t feel like doing it, I opt for the store-bought crust. As you can see from this article, some people vote for homemade crust every time.

And now, for the biggest no-no of them all

I feel nervous even to write this because I’m pretty sure if my Nunna were here to discover it, she’d disown me. Among the kitchen shortcuts I take nowadays that I never ever EVER would have taken years ago is using spaghetti sauce in a jar. (I literally cringed when I wrote that. ) My Nunna would likely question whether I have even a single drop of Italian blood in me if she were to know of my discretion. To make myself feel better when I do it, I add spices to the jarred sauce! LOL

I love making homemade sauce. It’s especially wonderful to make sauce from my own garden produce, and I do this often. The older I get, though, the more lenient I become with myself. If I know ahead of time that a particular day is going to be busy, I use the jarred sauce. I can remember the first time one of my kids saw me opening a jar of spaghetti sauce. He looked as if he were about to suffer apoplexy. His eyes bugged out of his head, mouth open wide. When he gathered his senses, he exclaimed, “Mum! YOUUUUUUU are using sauce IN. A. JAAARRRR????” “I know. I said. It’s bad. Don’t tell my Dad (who was still living at the time.).” LOL

Who’s ready to fess up?

What are your favorite kitchen shortcuts? Would any of them make your immigrant ancestors mad at you? LOL In the meantime, take a look back at this post that talks about harvest-processing hacks, meaning: You don’t have to spend hours in a hot kitchen, canning everything!


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