Allergy-friendly cookbook for kids

To be a kid in a candy store epitomizes the ultimate dream come true, one that only gets better when the shop is owned by your mom and aunt.

But for Justin Young, 15, whose family owns Chocolate Chocolate in Washington, D.C., the reality was a nightmare. Because he was born with severe food allergies, nearly everything in the store — the rich truffles, the dark-chocolate-dipped caramels, the milk hazelnut pralines — was off-limits.

"Allergies, Away!" by Ginger and Frances Park is a cookbook/memoir that chronicles the past decade of their effort to keep Young's hives at bay without depriving him of treats.

Recipes in the book are free of nuts, dairy and eggs, per Young's dietary restrictions (although recipes do contain other allergenic ingredients such as soy and gluten). Comfort foods such as lasagna are made with vegan cheese and tofu, and the chocolate truffles contain soy creamer and soy butter — alternatives that the writers claim taste as good as if not better than the real thing. The Parks, who note that they are neither doctors nor chefs, also share tales of visits to the allergist.


Outdoor options for kids

Tight budgets or complicated schedules — or both — can put a damper on family vacations.

Even if you can't swing a trip to the Grand Canyon, there are so many ways to help children embrace nature and the abundance it offers as teacher, therapist and guru.

In "The Kids' Outdoor Adventure Book: 448 Great Things to Do in Nature Before You Grow Up" (Falcon Guides), Stacy Tornio and Ken Keffer lay out all the amazing opportunities that kids 13 and younger — as well as grown-up kids — can pursue throughout the year.

In their array of examples (write on rocks, plant at least three different veggies, build a sand castle, paddle a canoe, fly a kite), the authors encourage participants to put all of their sensory skills to work and see even ordinary activities with a fresh perspective. Each suggestion has an "adventure scale" to help parents choose age-appropriate activities, and the authors provide information and resources for pursuing favored choices in greater depth.

The fun doesn't stop there. Seasonal projects (building a birdhouse, for example, in spring) are offered, as well as great places to visit — a farm, perhaps? Or a state park? Games and some easy recipes round out this charming book.

As the authors write in their introduction, their compendium doesn't aim to compete with technology (as if) — nor is this a "teaching" book. Instead, they write, it's about "discovering the awe of something in nature for the first time, the second time, or even the 102nd time. And it's about connecting with Mother Nature as a family."