Our Family Dinner Book Club selection for the month of January is Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater.Here you’ll find a menu that can be prepared with the help of your children, and will hopefully be a fun and interactive activity for the whole family. Head over to Growing Book by Book for some talking points to get the conversation started and to find a few fun crafts. We invite you to share a picture from your dinner with us anytime during the month on our Family Dinner Book Club Facebook page.
Mr. Popper is a housepainter who enjoys learning about the world around him, and especially likes learning about penguins. When he is sent a penguin as a gift from a polar scientist, his life is altered and his wife and children come along for the ride of their lives. The Popper’s are not very wealthy, and during Mr. Popper’s off-season at work they have to scrimp and save even more than usual. Beans are inexpensive and filling so that is a common dinner item for the Poppers. When they come into possession of a penguin, and then another, and then many more, they turn their home into a frozen habitat to accommodate the new members of their family.
I set up my dinner table with snow for the penguins, bean soup to provide a dish the Poppers would be familiar with, and hot cocoa to keep us all warm while playing with the penguins in their frozen home. I went with a white foods theme for this dinner to further represent the snow, and also tried to make cold-weather dishes that would help warm us all up. What goes better with soup than grilled cheese? That’s right, nothing, so we must have grilled cheese sandwiches with our Mr. Popper’s Penguins meal.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins
Family Dinner Book Club Menu
Mrs. Popper’s White Bean Soup (recipe below)
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Get the kids involved! Older kids can, with adult supervision, use a small pairing knife to cut the cauliflower into florets. Kids of any age can help drizzle the cauliflower with the oil and salt and use their hands to mix it all together. Kids can use an immersion blender to blend the soup, or carefully transfer it to a regular blender or food processor. Take the kids with you to shop for dinner and have them choose any white fruit or vegetable they would like to have with dinner. Talk about what foods you see that remind you of snow or that look like something the Popper’s Penguins would want to play with. Kids will have so much fun measuring and mixing together the dry ingredients for the hot cocoa.
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small or medium onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 15-ounce cans white beans, drained and rinsed
- 24 ounces (3 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
- 4-5 sprigs of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ounce grated parmesan cheese, plus more for passing
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the oil in a medium sauce pot over medium heat.
- Add the onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the garlic, beans, chicken stock, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Remove the bay leaf and thyme, and use an immersion blender to blend the soup to a smooth consistency. Alternatively, carefully transfer the soup to a blender or food processor in batches and blend until smooth.
- Return to the heat and add the parmesan cheese, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir to melt the cheese and reheat the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Serve with extra parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top.