I have enjoyed cooking and baking since I was a young girl, and because I enjoyed it I guess I always thought I was pretty good at it. There were certain things that I was good at - chocolate chip cookies, for instance, and from-scratch brownies. But in America, so many things are conveniently ready-made that we forget about all the things that we don't know how to cook. Suddenly I was dropped in a foreign country and needed to learn to make all kinds of foreign foods . . . and I realized, in the process, that there were a lot of familiar American foods that I actually didn't know how to make either!

So today's article is "what I wish I'd known" for those who are still in the preparation stage. If you are heading overseas in the next few weeks, disregard this post - and don't despair, you will learn as you go! But if you still have several months before you will be crossing the ocean, this article is for you! Here are a few things that I wish I'd learned to make from scratch in the comfort of my American kitchen, instead of experimenting and repeatedly failing with precious, expensive ingredients in Africa!

1) Yogurt. It's a great baby food, a good source of protein for all ages, a simple breakfast, a healthy snack, and a creamy cold treat on a hot day. If you haven't already made yogurt from scratch, you'll be thankful you learned how!

2) Tortillas. We're from the western US, so maybe this isn't applicable to everyone. But I've found Mexican food to be one of our favorite "special" treats overseas . . . which means I had to learn to make tortillas from scratch. It's a lot of work, but it's worth it!

3) Sauces. White sauce, cheese sauce, spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, alfredo sauce, BBQ sauce, tartar sauce, fresh salsa - you name it! I also include gravy in this catagory.

4) Yeast bread. We could buy decent white bread locally, but it sure is nice to have wheat bread occasionally. And to be able to make pizza crust, breadsticks, dinner rolls, hamburger buns, etc for special occasions. And a bread machine doesn't count, ladies, unless you're planning to have one in your new home! You have to be able to knead the dough by hand. :-)

5) Cake and frosting. Although I did a lot my of baking from scratch, for some reason I always used cake mixes and canned frosting. This became a problem when the first birthday rolled around overseas!!

6) Pudding. I'm still no good at making pudding from scratch, but I'm determined to learn someday!

7) Miscellaneous baked sweets. What are your favorites - cookies? Brownies? Pie? You (and your husband!) will be glad you learned how to make them from scratch!

8) Anything you normally make from a seasoning packet, a box, or a can. Think about the prepared foods you usually buy. Do you usually make guacamole from a seasoning packet? Have you ever made cornbread from scratch instead of from a Jiffy mix? When you make chili have you tried starting with dried beans and your spice rack instead of just popping open a few cans and dumping in a seasoning packet? What about making tomato soup from scratch instead of using Cambell's?

Those are a few things I wish I'd known before we moved overseas (although a couple of them I did know). Don't be overwhelmed at this list. Pick a few things that will be the most special to you and/or your family, and master those things first. You certainly don't have to be a gourmet chef before you cross the ocean! But it will help the transition process if you aren't learning to cook foreign food AND American food at the same time!!

Share your thoughts below, ladies! What did I miss? What do you wish you'd known how to make before you left the States? OR, what are you very thankful that you DID know when you moved overseas?

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