Three weeks into September and it seems like everyone is back at the grind-and doing it well, I might add. I, on the other hand, had to take a break last week. I am not ready to let go of my white pants, Birkenstocks or bright-colored shorts just yet, but I’m periodically closing in my still-neon-orange-painted toes in some shoes. The transition can’t be too abrupt.

Two weeks ago, we attacked the beginning of getting your kitchen ready for fall cooking. We cleaned out the pantry, fridge and freezer, taking inventory of all and reorganizing each into zones. Taking an inventory before going to the grocery store makes shopping quick and easy. I know it wasn’t a light task, but I hope you had the “aha!” moment when it was done and saw its beauty.

Did you do your homework? How did the family powwow go? And the night out at a new restaurant? Maybe you didn’t realize it, but I hope you enjoyed the family together time. It is essential that this effort be a family affair.

The next step of the new plan is to take this family recon and use it to stock the kitchen with the items needed to make those family favorites and some of the new dishes you want to try and recreate that you tried at your family outing. The easiest way to frame your kitchen in order to make these favorites is by knowing the cuisines to which you are and your family are drawn. There is a method to my madness, after all!

Here is an example of a kitchen plan for Italian cuisine-loving family:

  • Pantry: olive oil, canned tomatoes (various types), crushed red pepper, dried basil, oregano, pasta (various types), tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, breadcrumbs, pinenuts, tuna, beans (chickpeas, cannellini), garlic, onions, wine
  • Refrigerator: cheeses (mozzarella, parmesan, mascarpone), olives, capers, cured pork products (prosciutto, salami, pancetta), herbs (basil, oregano, thyme)
  • Freezer: frozen vegetables (peas, spinach), meats and poultry (ground beef, sausage, chicken cutlets, veal)

And for those who view Latin food as a way of life:

  • Pantry: corn/vegetable oil, canned tomatoes (various types), dried chilies, Adobo seasoning, oregano, cumin, achiote, chili powder, rice, boullion (chicken and beef), beans (dried and canned), masa meal, tomato paste, garlic, onions, plantains
  • Refrigerator: cheeses (cheddar, cotija, queso fresco), sour cream, olives, capers, herbs (cilantro, oregano), peppers (bell, jalapeno, poblano), chorizo, corn or flour tortillas
  • Freezer: meats and poultry (ground beef, chicken on the bone, skirt steak, pork shoulder)

Having your kitchen stocked with these essential ingredients allows you to cook myriad dishes, from a quick, simple pasta dish or rice and beans to a Sunday long-cooked gravy (sauce) or roasted pernil. Take the same approach with Asian, Greek or French food.

These are just suggestions and you can always add more or take out as needed. As you begin to develop a taste for other cuisines, you can use the same strategy to prepare your kitchen to try your hand at cooking those dishes.

Good luck! Bon chance! Vaya con Dios! Buona fortuna!

Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!

Follow me on Twitter @SCHOPgirl, join the family on Facebook by searching “SCHOP” and please subscribe to my blog at for more recipes, tips and food musings. Questions at dinnertime? Chat with me at AskSCHOP, Monday through Friday, 6-8 p.m. Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! which is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Email