Our Family Dinner Book Club selection for the month of April is Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park. 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. Then visit Enchanted Homeschooling Mom for a fun craft to decorate your dinner table. We invite you to share a picture from your dinner with us anytime during the month on our Family Dinner Book Club Facebook page.
Xander is a panda who lives in a zoo and wants to throw a party. He struggles to figure out who to invite, but straight from the get go he knows what his menu will be. This is my kind of panda! I always know my party menu long before I know the rest of the details, and I have a feeling that Xander loves food about as much as I do. To help make Xander’s party dreams come true, I took inspiration from his own menu, and sprinkled in some flavors from his homeland, China. The best part about this menu? You can eat it all with your hands! No forks or chopsticks required for Xander’s panda party menu!
Xander likes to eat leaves, so I thought I’d fill up those leaves with something flavorful like seasoned chicken and vegetables. You can make these Chicken Lettuce Wraps vegetarian by using extra firm tofu in place of the chicken. Just add it to the veggies at the very end of cooking. Serve some bamboo shoots on the side. Have everyone taste the bamboo on it’s own, and then add to their own lettuce cups if desired. This is a fun way to explore new flavors and make a great table conversation, too.
Fresh berries make a beautiful and edible centerpiece to any table. You don’t even need to get fancy with them. Just wash and place in a bowl! Serve a mixture of raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, blueberries, and any other berries that you can find at your local farmers market or grocery store. If you want to add a little something extra, drizzle them with honey! That is a menu item for Xander’s panda party after all.
Xander added fish to his menu because he knew all his bear friends would enjoy that. I wanted to keep with Xander’s menu here, but also wanted something totally kid friendly. So I served fish sticks with our Xander’s Panda Party menu, and I added more interaction and fun to the table by serving four different dipping sauces alongside. Full disclosure here: those are *gasp* frozen fish sticks you see in my photos. I know, I know! I should have taken the time to cook up some fresh fish sticks, but sometimes life just gets a little too busy and I turn to my pre-made favorites. These are not the flavorless, soggy fish sticks of my youth. You can find some great tasting brands that aren’t full of artificial ingredients and junk at stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Now that I have two young girls in my home to feed, I have been keeping my fridge stocked with items like this for those busy nights when I feel so frazzled that even opening the fridge makes my hair stand on end! So, don’t feel guilty when you turn to these easy favorites from time to time!
Our four dipping sauces are: honey, hoisin sauce, orange glaze, and spicy peanut sauce. One of the tricks that works in our house for getting kids to try new things, is to add a dipping sauce. Dinner is more enjoyable for them when it is interactive, and when they get to hold their food in their hand instead of using a fork, and then get the chance to dip away? Dinner practically becomes play time! Try it on your own picky eaters, I bet it’ll work.
- ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon cooking oil
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (I like to use a mix of both), diced
- 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and finely chopped
- 4 scallions, diced
- 1 carrot, grated
- 1 large head butter or iceberg lettuce, or cabbage
- In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and rice vinegar, and set aside.
- Wash and dry the lettuce, and pull leaves apart. These will be your lettuce cups.
- Heat the oil in a large saute pan, or a wok, over medium heat, add the chicken, and sauté until cooked through, about 5 minutes.
- Add the ginger, garlic, bell pepper, and water chestnuts and cook until the bell peppers are soft, about 3 minutes.
- Pour the sauce into the sauté pan and stir to coat well. Add the scallions, and grated carrots, and cook until the sauce has coated everything and is warm, about 2 minutes.
- Serve in lettuce cups.