Hi, I’m Snejana (Sneji) (pronounced Sneh-jee)! Welcome to my corner of the internet, The Modern Nonna, where I create healthier, modern recipes inspired by my childhood in Bulgaria, Greece, and my life as a Toronto-based creator.
The Modern Nonna is a place for me to share recipes, kitchen hacks, favorite products, and cooking tips and tricks.
I’ve been surrounded by incredible home cooks my whole life, and ever since I was a little girl, helping my grandma make homemade milk, yogurt, and cheese from her farm, I have loved being in the kitchen. I’ve been sharing my recipes online for years now, and I’ve been so lucky to collaborate with incredible brands, such as Amazon, Redpath Sugar, Smeg Canada, Ninja, Midday Squares, Kettle and Fire, Branch Basics, Cosori, Presidents Choice, & many more.
My work has been featured on The Kitchn, The Feed Feed, Well and Good, New York Post, MSN News, the Independent, Pure Wow, EatingWell, Amex, Yahoo! News, National Post, The Fresh Market Magazine, and others.
My life took a long and interesting path to get to where I am today, and I have so much gratitude for my readers and followers who have supported me over the years and helped me reach these accomplishments. Now, here is the story of how I became The Modern Nonna….
I like to say I learned how to cook at the best culinary school in the world: my grandmas’ kitchens. Growing up in Sofia, Bulgaria and then later in Crete, Greece, I spent a lot of time with my grandmas (and my mom), watching them cook, learning from them, and eating together. These are among my happiest and most nostalgic memories.
The women in my family taught me to cook the foods of my homeland: peasant bread, shopska salad, grilled pita with feta, prinzesi (cheesy baked Bulgarian sandwiches), buhti (Bulgarian fried dough), Bulgarian stuffed peppers, banitsa (Bulgarian phyllo feta pie), and countless other dishes. But more than that, they taught me to cook “na oko,” which means “by eye.” In their kitchens, there were no measuring cups or food scales. Everything was measured by heart or by memory. This is perhaps the greatest lesson they imparted on me and it’s something I preach in my recipes: trust your culinary instincts, learn how to taste a dish, and then adjust the seasoning. The only way to truly learn how to cook is to allow yourself to experiment and let go of restrictions.
These lessons served me well when my family moved to Toronto, Canada. Two big things shifted for me upon the move to Canada: my mom was busier than ever and needed help cooking and I became exposed to new “health foods,” such as avocado oil, mineral salt, nuts, seeds, and quinoa. Determined to feed us nourishing food, while preserving the flavors and foodways of my childhood in Bulgaria and Greece, I rolled up my sleeves at 22 years old and declared myself the designated cook in the house. A mix of experimentation with modern health foods and recreating my family’s recipes led me to become the cook I am today.
Meanwhile, at the age of 15, I met my love, Steve. Through him and his big Italian family, I learned traditional recipes that were passed on from his Nonna and family in Calabria. Steve’s family not only feeds my obsession with pasta, they’ve also helped me learn many Italian cooking fundamentals, such as making an authentic sugo (Italian tomato sauce), which has become a weekend-long tradition the family and I partake in at the end of every tomato season. Together, they’ve helped me master dishes such as affogato, carbonara, bruschetta, homemade pizza dough, and so many other Italian favorites. Making traditional Sugo with modern ingredients is what made me choose the page name I have today.
So why the name, “The Modern Nonna”? Nonna, or “grandmother” in Italian, is a dedication to the women who have shaped me into the chef I am today: my grandmas, my mom, Steve’s mom, and his Italian Nonna. The name represents me and my unique style of cooking: adding a modern, healthier twist to traditional recipes.
And now, for some fun facts:
- Food is both my passion and a hobby
- Before I started The Modern Nonna as a full-time business, I was an insurance broker
- My first job was at age 13 at Kernels Popcorn
- I wrote an e-book on how to organically grow your socials
- I created a line of organic essential oils
- My mom and I owned an accounting firm
- My mom owned a clothing store and imported fashion from Greece. My maternal grandma ran it for 20 years after that.
- My paternal grandmother lived in the mountains of Bulgaria, raising animals, and making her own milk, yogurt, and cheese; I used to wake up at 5am to help her sell our local dairy
- I was born and raised in Bulgaria.
- I lived in Greece (island of Crete) for years
- I lived in a hotel for months in the USA prior coming to Canada
- I was bullied for not knowing English
- I currently live in Toronto, Canada
- Steve’s family is from Calabria, Italy
- I love to travel and immerse myself in new cultures
- Family and preserving traditions are most important to me
- I have played tennis and volleyball all my life
- I struggled with social anxiety
- Both of my parents are amazing cooks
- My dad competed in the Olympics for water polo, which is what led us to Greece to begin with
- The parents of the Greek players on my dad’s water polo team taught my mom how to cook authentic Greek food
- Both my parents are fluent in Greek (my mom also speaks English and Russian)
- My top three kitchen tools are good knives, Vitamix blender, and a food processor
- My all-time favorite cuisine is Italian, but I love any cuisine from the Mediterranean and the Balkans