The Second to Last Project

I just sent Mikey to bed after finishing the second to last project of the school year. He has one more book report + project and the year of project-based learning is over! Don’t get me wrong–this was an incredible year of growth for Mikey and the kids in his class. They’re a competitive bunch as it is, but the changes I have seen in them since the beginning of the year is amazing. I see kids 1st through 7th in the library, and the 4th grade class is easily the best behaved and most well read. They think on a different level than even the older kids. I already appreciate everything Mikey’s teacher has done this year, but I think I will appreciate it twice as much next year when we don’t have as many projects. This year was like childbirth.

May was the month of The Cooking Project. The kids had to cook a meal for the family using a recipe and doing no less than 90% of the work. The family filled out review cards and assigned stars to the meal. Then, Mikey had to double and triple the recipe, but only on paper. Part of the goal of this project was to work with fractions. It was interesting watching Mikey figure out what to do when he needed 1/8 of a teaspoon of paprika when he only had a 1/4 teaspoon measure.
Casserole Picture

Mikey made his favorite Cozy Cheesy Potato Casserole from Jessica’s Not Your Mother’s Make Ahead and Freeze Cookbook. Are you tired of me talking about that cookbook yet? Too bad. I really do love its simplicity and solid recipes. This is easily my favorite cookbook, and I have two shelves to choose from.

I don’t have permission from the publisher to share the recipe, but I can share a link to the cream of celery soup Mikey had to make in order to put together the rest of the casserole. If I could describe the casserole, I would say it’s a lot like Funeral Potatoes or Church Potatoes or a Hash Brown Casserole, but not so soupy/cheesy/greasy. It’s a clean version of the standby, I guess.

Casserole, Ingredients

Nico and I: not fans of casseroles. Nico also despises cheese unless it’s on pizza, so I had a backup dinner in mind. He knew he had to try it, though, so he asked me for the smallest portion possible. Then he girded his loins and approached his plate like a soldier walking into battle. Turns out, he loved it and had seconds. He gave it 5 stars and wrote: “It was so good I cood cry!” I also liked it, believe it or not.

Cozy Cheese Potato Casserole, Process

Mikey was so happy, so proud. It made the agony of staying quiet while he fumbled around the kitchen well worth the extra gray hairs, though I still say that watching him grate cheese should be adopted by the government as a torture device.

Celery Soup

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    I love proud mom posts! He looks so focused and serious in that eggbeater picture- also I am imagining him being a very confident cook, despite slow cheese grating!

    That was no easy meal. Nice work!

  2. says

    You’d be surprised what kids can do when you leave them to their own devices! The only problem I’ve run into with my nephews is using the peeler – that damn thing is tricky when you have little hands!

    Hopefully this inspires Mikey to cook more – it’s a great skill to have in life…especially making those cheesy potatoes. My MIL makes something very, very similar, and I can eat it by the truckload.

    Speaking of which…I think I know what I’m having for dinner tonight!

  3. Sarah says

    Whoever he ends up living with down the road will be super happy he knows how to cook. I’ve known so many men (and women) who left home having never cooked absolutely anything. (Or done their laundry…or cleaned house, but that’s another story.) It’s such a great skill in life to have!

    We call that potato-cheese casserole Sarah’s Potatoes in my family. Apparently I ate the majority of the pan when I was 5. I still love it, but only when made with cream of celery soup; no chicken.

  4. Suzanne says

    We just finished up a childbirth year in 5th grade. I hear ya, loud and clear! I love the empowerment that your son has after making a meal that went over with flying colors. I will have to check out that cookbook. Pronto!

  5. says

    He’s so lucky to be learning to cook at that age! I learned early, partly from watching my mom, partly from necessity (my mom worked and went to school so knowing how to put together my own simple meals/snacks was critical) and I’m so grateful to feel really at home in the kitchen.

    D didn’t do ANYTHING in the kitchen until college and I think he regrets it. He has worked on it and there are a few dishes he’s great with but without that basic comfort level it’s much more time consuming and not something you usually feel like tackling after a full work day. I have to leave the room when he’s in the kitchen because it kills me to watch when I know it would be faster for me to just to do it.

    Pretty sure cooking was the only thing that made fractions make sense to me. Such a smart way to get kids to tackle them!

  6. says

    I hear you on the cheese grater.

    I’ve been laid up from surgery on the ruptured discs in my neck (ugh–I don’t recommend it), but one night before surgery, when I was in a lot of pain and on meds that made me groggy, I delegated dinner to the kids (11 and 8). I scrawled out the recipe for chili on a scrap of paper, and showed them the cornbread recipe on the back of the cornmeal container. The only thing I did before I passed out on the couch was to chop the onion. They were awesome, and SO proud of themselves. My mom keeps reminding me that she was prepping dinner for a family of 8 when she was just 9 years old (partly as a 4-H requirement, partly because that was life on a farm), so I have to keep reminding myself that they really are old enough to get competent in the kitchen.

  7. Kathy says

    Looks delicious!
    Just wondering – where did you buy Mickey’s shirt? If you don’t mind sharing?

  8. J.Lee says

    my 8 year old girl is obsessed with making pancakes mostly-on-her-own every sat morning. i feel you.

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