Call me naïve, but I never thought I used many convenience foods in America. I didn’t buy many frozen pizzas or boxed dinners and I certainly didn’t categorize salad dressings, sour cream, or canned beans in the camp of convenience foods. That mindset has changed. I live in a place where nearly everything (including milk) needs to be mixed up during the food prep process which has caused me to believe that a pound of raw, purchased ground beef is a convenience food. (I grind my own with a hand grinder.)

 

Hence my newfound love for mixes. With these in my possession, I feel like an American again. Well, almost. But anything done in advance and waiting for me in my pantry is one less step to worry about when I’m making a meal and am crunched for time.

 

Here are a few of my favorites:

 

 

Pancake Mix (I didn’t even use pancake mixes in the States, but I also didn’t have pancakes regularly on the breakfast roster in a place where I could buy boxed cereal for $1.49)

 

12 cups flour, whole wheat flour or buckwheat flour

 

¾ cup sugar

 

4 cups dry milk

 

2 T. salt

 

¾ cup baking powder

 

Mix well and store in a tight container. When ready to make pancakes beat together 1 egg, 1 cup water, and 2 T. cooking oil.

Stir in 1 ½ cups mix. When using ¼ cup batter per pancake, makes about 8 pancakes per 1 ½ cup mix.

 



 

Bisquick”

 

8 cups flour

 

2 T. baking powder

 

2 tsp. salt

 

2 tsp. cream of tartar

 

1 tsp. baking soda

 

2 cups nonfat dry milk

 

2 cups shortening

 

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture is consistently mealy.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container. (Can be refridgerated for longer shelf life.)

 

For biscuits: Use 1 cup mix with 1/3 cup water.

 

For pancakes: Beat 2 cups baking mix, 2 eggs, and 1 cup milk.

 

Note (to be taken as from a woman of sad experience): Make sure the container is very dry otherwise mold will grow.

 

 

 

Taco Seasoning

 

4 T. chili powder

 

3 ½ T. paprika

 

3 T. cumin

 

2 T. salt

 

2 T. onion powder

 

1 ½ T. garlic powder

 

¼ tsp. red pepper

 

Combine all ingredients; mix well. Store in a sealed container for up to 6 months. Makes 1 cup.

To use, mix 2 T. mix with 1 lb. ground beef and ½ cup water.

 

 

 

Italian Dressing

1/2 T garlic powder

1 T onion powder

2 T oregano

1 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp thyme

1 tsp basil

1 T parsley

2 T salt

Stir together. Two tablespoons equal 1 purchased package.

To make into Italian dressing: Mix 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2/3 cup olive oil, 2 T water, 2 T dry mix. Blend well. Serve.

 



 

Ranch Dressing

 

2 T. onion flakes

 

2 tsp. onion powder

 

2 T. parsley

 

2 tsp. paprika

 

1 T. salt

 

2 tsp. pepper

 

1 T. garlic powder

 

Mix all together. Two tablespoons equals one purchased package.

 

For dressing: Mix 2 T. Ranch mix, 1 cup mayonnaise, and 1 cup buttermilk.

 

For dip: Mix 2 T. Ranch mix and 2 cups sour cream.

 

Do you have any mix recipes? How have you used mixes to streamline your cooking?

 

Meet Sara: My husband and I and our two children moved to Accra, Ghana in September 2015 to fill the Field Secretary position for our organization. As part of our job, our home is the pit stop for travellers passing through the capital. I cook for lots of guests, then, including midnight snacks for those arriving hungry from the airport, breakfasts-to-go for early morning departures, race-the-clock meals for those in a time crunch, and specialty meals to treat our missionaries who live simplistic lives in their posts. I love this part of our job and look forward to the guests pencilled in on our calendar.

 

I am part of a couple groups for women overseas, and quite a while ago, one of the members asked this question:

"Has anyone else dealt with feeling physically "off" when you first moved to a new country? It seems like I have a few good days and then am flat on my back with some sickness or other AGAIN. I almost never feel normal. Any suggestions of things that worked for anyone? Or an idea of how long this will last?"

Good question! Most of us overseas have dealt with this, so I think it's worth discussing here. Yes, it's normal, and mostly you just have to wait it out. I think it can easily take a year to get used to the climate and "bugs" of a new place. But here are a few things to keep in mind as well . . .

1) Get plenty of rest. Give your body a break. You are dealing with a TON of new stuff, physically and emotionally, and it's exhausting. If you've just moved to a tropical climate from a temperate one, you're dealing with the heat which is very draining on your body. Take naps. Go to bed early whenever you can.

 

2) Drink plenty of water. Especially if you're in a hot climate. Drink, drink, drink! The average recommendation of 64oz a day may not be enough for an active lifestyle in a tropical country. Set a timer to remind you to drink a glass of water every couple hours, or do whatever it takes to make sure that you're staying hydrated.

 

3) Take a good multivitamin. Your diet is most likely not as varied and "enriched" as it was in America, and you need to make sure your body is getting the micro-nutrients you need. I really recommend one of those green smelly kinds made from whole foods, rather than the cheap ones you can get at Walmart. :-)

 

4) Eat a good diet. At first, give yourself some grace on this one, as you're learning to cook with strange foods and limited variety. But have a long-term goal of eating as healthy as you can with what you have available. I hope to write an article specifically on this topic soon.

 

5) Avoid what stress you can. Obviously moving to a foreign country is hugely stressful. There is no way around that. Stress takes a measurable toll on your body, and people who have high stress levels are much more likely to get sick. So take this into account, and take special care of yourself through the first stressful months of life in your new country.

 

What am I missing? Do you have any tips to add?

This, people, is pure health food. The Proverbs 17:22 kind - A cheerful heart makes good medicine. :-)

A friend gave me the recipe that inspired these bars. I changed it around a little and came up with a few variations. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you might give these a try. The ingredients should be available in most locations.

 

Sticky Bars

 

BOTTOM LAYER:
¾ cup butter, margarine, or oil or a combination of these
½ cup sugar
1 ½ cup flour
salt

Mix, press into 9x13 pan and bake for 10 minutes at 350 or until slightly golden.

TOP LAYER: Pour over crust, and bake for 25 minutes or until set and browned............ this top layer, here's where you can get creative. So far, I have made the following:

COCONUT
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
3 T flour
¾ t salt
1 ½ cup shredded coconut

PEANUT
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
3 T flour
¾ t salt
1 ½ cup roasted peanuts

LEMON
4 eggs
1 ½ cup sugar
½ cup lemon juice
¾ t salt
¾ cup cream

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 t vanilla
3 T flour
¾ t salt
Mix the above. Divide in half. Mix half with ¾ cup peanut butter. Mix the other half with ½ cup cocoa powder. Spread peanut butter mixture over baked crust, then drizzle with chocolate mixture. Bake.



Next up is almond flavoring. You could try whatever ingredients you may have on hand. Dates, raisins? Other nuts? Orange juice or fruit? Instant coffee? Mocha...absolutely. Chocolate chips would never hurt, if you are lucky enough to have those. Cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin spice....

Let us know in the comments what you're thinking!

Happy baking!

Today I'm thrilled to share an interview with a young friend of mine. She was raised overseas, and has now transitioned into adulthood in the States. I was excited to ask her some of the questions that burned on my heart as I considered raising my children as TCKs. Please note that no name is used, to protect my friend's identity.

 

Q: Was your childhood overseas a good experience, one you look back on with good memories?

A: Yes, it was. Like any child, I had good times and bad ones. But overall I had a very happy childhood. I think the single most important thing was that our home was secure. My parents were unified, my brothers and sisters were my best friends. There was love in the home. We always had each other’s support, loyalty, and love. 

 

Q: Was it hard to have your father in ministry and gone a lot? Did you feel frustrated or bitter about that?

A: Sometimes, yes. More in my teen years than as a young child. The hardest thing was that his schedule was unpredictable, so we couldn’t count on having him there for the family times and things we felt he ought to be there for. But we had weekly family nights and daily family devotions. He did make his family a priority.

 

Q: How were furloughs for you as a child?

A: They were a difficult time. We didn’t just stay in one place, we traveled a lot and that was hard. The hardest thing was not wanting to make friendships because I knew they wouldn’t last since we were leaving again in a few months. 

 

Q: What are some things your parents did to help you grow up "well-rounded" while you were living overseas?

A: My parents made our home a “mini America” - they didn’t throw away their American culture when we moved overseas. When we were at a local friends’ house, then of course we adopted the local customs. But when we were at home, we were expected to use American manners, speak proper English, and so on. Also, my parents made our education a priority. My dad took the time to teach us music and other things that were important to him.
Another thing I really appreciate, is that my parents knew they would be letting us go, and didn’t try to hold onto us or make us take up their calling or vision of missions. They blessed us to each find our own way.


Q: How was the transition from your home country to the States? What helped you the most through that transition?

A: That transition was very overwhelming. My parents were here with me the first year, and I don’t know how I could have done it without my family. They knew where I was “lacking” and worked to fill in the gaps and teach me how to do things. I felt like a little child again, I had to re-learn everything. Banking, driving, cooking - all those things I knew how to do in my home country, I had to learn how to do here in America.
I also really needed people who genuinely wanted to be my friend, and weren’t just curious about my life overseas. In the beginning, I needed people who were willing to come my way - I didn’t have the energy to pursue relationships or even figure out how to get places.


Q: How do you feel that being a TCK has impacted you as an adult? Positive in what ways? Negative in what ways?

A: NEGATIVE - There have been some things to work through. One hard thing is not knowing how to maintain relationships. I’ve never had the opportunity to be friends with someone “long-term” before, and I’m learning how to do it. Overall, the negative things are minor, and I am learning to work through them and overcome them.

POSITIVE - I have compassion for immigrants! When I see someone trying to order at a restaurant or something like that, I just want to help them - I know what it feels like to be lost in a new culture. I have different values. A lot of the fads and fashions don’t mean anything to me - of course, that can make it harder to relate to my peers, but it’s also a good thing. I realize there’s more than one way of doing life. That takes some of the pressure off. I’m not afraid to be different - I’ve been different my whole life.



Q: Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for mothers who are raising their children overseas?

A: 1) Watch your attitudes. Your children will pick up on your attitudes, especially toward your host country and the local people. If you express distaste, frustration, fear, etc they will either pick that up and also be discontent and frustrated, or (as they begin to identify with the local culture) they will get bitter towards you for your attitude.

2) Understand how hard it is for your adult children to transition back to the States. Don’t pity them, but be there for them. Remember what it was like for you when you first moved overseas - and realize it's that hard or harder for them. Give them the support they need, help them fill in the gaps.

 

Great words of wisdom for us as moms raising TCKs! Many thanks to this brave friend for sharing her heart!