Fungi Fun

mushroom kit

One of my co-workers received a mushroom kit as a Christmas gift last winter. They are becoming very trendy as “the gift that keeps on giving” because you can harvest 2-3 crops from the kit and they are an alternative to the more traditional fruit bouquets or cookie food gifts. If you enjoy gourmet mushrooms such as Portobello, Shiitake or Enoki varieties, you can grow them at home for a much lower cost.

Gourmet Mushroom Kits

Most mushroom growing kits usually consist of a 12 by 12 inch square block of compressed sawdust “medium” that has been enriched and inoculated with spawn of the particular mushroom variety being cultivated. Mushrooms, being fungi, do not grow like regular garden vegetables. They are generated from spores, not seeds. The growing medium may vary, depending on the type of mushroom in the kit. Manure and compost may also be used to start mushrooms.

Mushroom growing kits are low-maintenance. All they really need is fresh air, water, a decent location, and a little patience.

Harvesting Time

Once you harvest the first crop of gourmet mushrooms, you will probably generate 1-2 more crops. Allow the spawn to rest for a couple of weeks and then you can repeat the entire process to produce additional harvests.

The subsequent crops of mushrooms will tend to grow smaller and produce fewer mushrooms as the nutrients contained in the growing medium become depleted. Once the crops have finished producing, discard the compost (you can throw it in your mulch or dig it into garden beds). If you decide to get serious about growing your own mushrooms, you may want to take the next step which is growing mushrooms on logs.

Nutrition Tips

Mushrooms are high in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure and counteract the bad effects of sodium in the diet. Mushrooms are low calorie and low carb; one cup of mushrooms contains about 15 calories and three grams of carbohydrates.  They are virtually fat-free.

If you like the big Portobello mushrooms, they can be used as a meatless entrée as well as a side dish. Portobellos have huge, flat, open caps that lend themselves extremely well to being grilled. Eat one in place of a hamburger or steak to reduce your saturated fat intake and lower your risk for heart disease.





Written by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu



What are Ultra-processed foods?  Ultra-processed foods are manufactured foods that Picture of brightly colored candies.went through many processes before getting to the supermarket.  Most of these foods could not be made at home, as you would not be able to purchase all the ingredients needed, such as colorings, emulsifiers, anti-caking agents, hydrogenated oils, protein isolates, and modified starches (to name a few).  Food examples include sugary cereals, ready-to-eat meals that contain additives, packaged baked goods such as cookies and croissants, potato chips, instant soups, and processed meats like salami, chicken nuggets (reformulated chicken pieces), sodas,  and hot dogs.  Usually ultra-processed foods have a long list of ingredients. The production techniques used reduce costs while making the products convenient.


NOVA Food Classifications (developed by Brazilian scientists and being widely used by others) have these four categories:

  1. Unprocessed foods such as vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs, legumes, moPicture of vegetables and fruitst meats, poultry, seafood, whole grains, yogurt (fermented milk), natural juice, coffee, and water.
  2. Minimally processed cooking ingredients such as vegetable oils, sugar, salt, honey, butter, and lard. Some of these can cause health concerns.
  3. Processed foods like fruit and vegetables canned, frozen or dehydrated; pasta; condensed milk; cured ham; traditional breads; beer and wine are examples.  These processes are not health concerns.
  4. Ultra-processed foods as defined in first paragraph.

The first three categories are used in homemade culinary preparations making cooking easier.

What is the problem with consuming ultra-processed foods?

  • Consuming more ultra-processed foods increases the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, irritable bowl syndrome, diabetes, and cancer. Researchers are not certain why ultra-processed foods cause health problems.
  • Many ultra-processed foods are high in sugar, salt, saturated fat, and calories and low in fiber and important nutrients. Some researchers estimate that 60% of the calories Americans eat are from ultra-processed foods.
  • One major concern is when people choose these foods they tend to overeat causing weight gain. One study found people who ate more ultra-processed foods tended to eat 500 more calories a day than people eating unprocessed foods.

Ways to eat more whole foods

  • Check the ingredient label on foods. Limit as much as possible anything that contains artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils, or substances you can’t pronounce or recognize. All ingredients should be ones you would be able to put in a food from your kitchen.
  • Be a Smart Shopper. When you go to the market think produce, dairy, nuts, legumes, meat, and fish. Most frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are good choices.
  • Make it yourself. Stock up on staple ingredients.  Making salad dressings only take a few minutes. Add fruit to plain yogurt instead of purchasing sugary-fruit flavored yogurt.
  • PlPicture of fruits- apple, grapes, kiwi, pear, orange and other fruitsan ahead for snacks. Choose whole fruits, nuts (make your own trail mix), hummus with veggies, etc.   Many whole fruits are easy to take with you and don’t require refrigeration.
  • Skip creamers and sweeteners in your tea and/or coffee. Use milk instead and get used to not using a sweetener.

Consume whole foods which are unprocessed or minimally processed to help control your weight and maintain your health.


Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, brinkman.93@osu.edu


Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension



Hall, K., Ayuketah, A., Brychta, R., Cai, H., Cassimatis, T., Chen, K.Y., Chung, S. T., Costa, E., Courville, A., Darcey, V., Fletcher, L.A., Forde, C. G., Gharib, A.M., Guo, J., Howard, R., Joseph, P.V., McGehee, S., Ouwerkerk, R., Raisinger, K., Rozga, I., Stagliano, M., Walter, M., Walter, P.J., Yang, S., and Zhou, M. (2019) Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake. Cell Metabolism, 30(1) 67-77  Available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1550413119302487?via%3Dihub


Levine, H. (2019). The Mounting Evidence Against Ultra-Processed Foods, Consumer Reports. Available at: https://www.consumerreports.org/packaged-processed-foods/the-mounting-evidence-against-ultra-processed-foods/?EXTKEY=NF96NCF2&utm_source=acxiom&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20190608_nsltr_food


Monteiro, C.A., Cannon, G., Moubarac, J-C., Levy, R. B., Louzada, M. L.C., and Jaime, P.C., (2019). Freshly Prepared Meals and Not Ultra-Processed Foods. Cell Metabolism 30(1) 5-6   Available at https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S1550413119303092?token=01A385B03B05C6BAFDF3C4626BA2E81134778C18F68A189AFD3C6E7FD5D6CCF26C827D2760A7647668D8D2DA391A618D








Allulose is a new low calorie sweetener that is beginning to make an appearance in foods on grocery store shelves.

If you are used to scanning the sweeteners on grocery store shelves, you may have noticed a new ingredient recently. Though it has been on the market here in the US since 2015, allulose is beginning to make an appearance in more foods for a wide variety of reasons.

Allulose is often called a rare sugar. I just figured this was a clever marketing term, but there is actually an International Society of Rare Sugars in Japan. Though we think of sucrose (that white granular substance we use while cooking and baking) as sugar, there are actually over 50 kinds of rare sugar that show up in nature. A little tweak here or there to a basic sugar molecule can result in a different sweetness level, different browning characteristics, and a different way of being metabolized in our gut.

In April of this year the FDA announced that allulose can be excluded from the total and added sugar counts on Nutrition Facts labels when used as an ingredient. Susan Mayne, Ph.D. and director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition stated “The latest data suggests that allulose is different from other sugars in that it is not metabolized by the human body in the same way as table sugar. It has fewer calories, produces only negligible increases in blood glucose or insulin levels, and does not promote dental decay.”

So what does that mean for us? If a food contains allulose as an ingredient, it will be declared in the ingredient statement on the label. However, it will not show up on the label as an added sugar in the Nutrition Facts. Each gram of allulose can be calculated as contributing 0.4 calories per gram rather than 4 calories per gram like sucrose. I recently saw a bag of allulose in a grocery store with a front label that read “100% sugar free.” Be on the lookout for these types of claims. Allulose is still a sugar.

Allulose occurs naturally in very small amounts in foods like wheat, jackfruit, figs and raisins. However, on a commercial scale, allulose can be made through a special processing of carbohydrates from corn, sugar beets and other sources of sucrose.

Allulose is an intriguing new ingredient for food manufacturers who are striving to give consumers what they say they want: a reduced sugar product that tastes great without the aftertaste or controversy of artificial non-nutritive sweeteners. It will most likely begin to show up in products marketed toward those trying to lose weight and those with Type 2 diabetes as research continues into the effects of allulose on blood glucose and insulin levels.

Like all novel ingredients, remember that this is just one promising tool to aid in achieving sweetness at a lower calorie level. In most cases, allulose is going to be included in foods that we should only be eating occasionally as special treats anyway. It is hard work to eat a balanced diet in moderation and enjoy physical activity, yet these are the keys to healthy living. Make it a healthy day!

Written by: Emily Marrison, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Coshocton County

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County


International Society of Rare Sugars (2019) at http://www.isrs.kagawa-u.ac.jp/index.html

Arnold, N. (2019, April 17) FDA in Brief: FDA allows the low-calorie sweetener allulose to be excluded from total and added sugars counts on Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels when used as an ingredient. athttps://www.fda.gov/news-events/fda-brief/fda-brief-fda-allows-low-calorie-sweetener-allulose-be-excluded-total-and-added-sugars-counts

The Calorie Control Council (2019) Allulose Low Calorie Sugar at https://allulose.org/

Green, E. (2018, June 27) Allulose potential: German start-up develops “real sugar without calories” at https://www.foodingredientsfirst.com/news/sugar-without-calories-german-start-up-eyes-emerging-potential-for-allulose-in-europe.html

Wenli, Z., Yu, S., Zhang, T., Jiang, B., & Mu, W. (2016) Recent advances in D-allulose: Physiological functionalities, applications, and biological production. Trends in Food Science & Technology, 54, pp.127-137. doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2016.06.004 at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tifs.2016.06.004

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/photos/cupcake-cake-sweets-sugar-carrot-279523/

I admit I am a book addict, and reading is by far my favorite hobby. If I miss more than one day of reading, I start to get grouchy. Reading relieves my stress. When I heard there was a “National Book Lovers Day”, I felt I had to share a few of the benefits that I find, and that research also supports.

If you are reading this you likely won’t say, “Why should I read?” You realize that while your brain is technically an organ, you can think of it like a muscle and if you don’t use it – you will lose it. This is important for all ages. The mental stimulation of reading prevents or slows the progression of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Research supports that reading just six minutes a day can reduce a person’s stress level by up to 68% (more than listening to music, playing video games, or going for a walk). Baby sitting on an adult's lap is looking at a book

Reading aloud to children, and even prenatally, can improve their language skills, build vocabulary, and prepare them to learn. There is strong research that shows children who read independently score higher on achievements tests and display more empathy. Remember that reading is contagious, if children see you reading books they are more likely to read books as well.

How to celebrate Book Lovers Day:

  • Visit the library – renew your library card, sign out regular books or e-books, or take part in a program.
  • Attend a book or author festival – while you probably won’t be able to do it this week, it may be an idea for your next vacation or girl’s trip. Several years ago I took a road trip with my daughter to Kentucky to an author event so she could meet a favorite author. It was interesting to meet the authors and we stocked up on books. There are all types of themes – children’s, romance, teens, or authors from a specific state, for example.
  • Give the gift of books – baby shower, birthday, secret pal, or even your parents. Books are a loved gift for people of all ages. You may need to do a little research to find out what they like before you shop or order.
  • Host or join a book club – but make sure you actually read at least some of the books.
  • Follow your favorite authors on social media – they often give books away and may actually be signing at a book store or library in your area. Birdhouse shaped book exchange cabinet
  • Reread a favorite book or read a classic you may have missed – reading it again may bring back memories from your youth. Look at a listing of classic (nonfiction, children’s, religious, historical, etc) books that everyone should read? How many have you read?
  • Donate books – donate used books to a non-profit, the hospital waiting room, the local book sale for scholarships, or an elementary school. Several teachers I know have asked for friends and family to sponsor a child in their class the last few years by giving the child their own new book for the start of the year.
  • Make sure you read the book before you watch the move – many movies are based on books, why not read it before you watch to see how close they are to the original.

We can’t wait to hear your ideas for ways to celebrate “National Book Lovers Day” or discover the benefits you experience from reading. I know my husband would probably comment that I read enough to have no stress at all.

Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County.


University of California, Santa Barbara, https://geog.ucsb.edu/10-benefits-of-reading-why-you-should-read-every-day/.

Rasmussen College, https://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/education/blog/benefits-of-reading-to-children/.

woman holding blue vape pen
Photo by Thorn Yang on Pexels.com

Most people are aware of the dangers and health risks associated with smoking.  Over the last several years this has caused the consumption rate to experience a steady down turn.  The tobacco industry has rallied back by creating and introducing a sleeker, sexier, new product known as e-cigarettes.  E-cigarettes have grown to be the most commonly used tobacco product among U.S. middle and high school students.  The U.S. Surgeon General reported in 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. youth, including 1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle school students, currently use e-cigarettes.  Adults are not immune to this trend, a whopping 10.8 million adults use e-cigarettes in the U.S.  Even more shocking, one study published by the American College of Physicians reported 15% of e-cigarette users had never smoked cigarettes before.

Trying to make sense of what has been referred to by the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome M. Adams, as an “e-cigarettes epidemic” can be quite confusing and overwhelming.  The National Institute of Drug Abuse defines an electronic cigarette as an e-cigarette, e-vaporizer, or electronic nicotine delivery system which are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol.  They typically contain nicotine, flavorings, and other harmful chemicals.  There are over 450 different e-cigarette brands on the market but some common nicknames for them include: e-cigs, e-hookahs, hookah pens, vapes, vape pens, and mods.

You might be asking yourself, “What is the appeal of e-cigarettes”? People cite several different reasons for using e-cigarettes but some of the most popular include: 

  1. The taste – there are over 15,000 different e-liquid flavors containing nicotine and other chemicals such as:  propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, benzaldehyde, cinnamaldehyde, etc.
  2. Curiosity – currently there are no restrictions on e-cigarette marketing like there is on tobacco products
  3. Accessibility – e-cigarettes can easily be purchased on the internet by minors
  4. Friends and/or family use them – most youth report receiving their device from friend/family with a positive message of no harmful risks associated
  5. The belief that they are less harmful than other forms of tobacco – e-cigarettes are highly addictive, contain harmful cancer-causing chemicals, and damage the brain and lungs

Most health organizations and officials agree it is still too early to know the potential long-term impacts of e-cigarettes.  According to the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, there is evolving evidence supporting negative impacts including irreversible lung damage, lung disease, addiction, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.  While only time will reveal the overall negative health consequences, the CDC suggest practicing the following prevention strategies:  be tobacco-free, talk to your kids, friends, and family about why e-cigarettes are harmful for them, and let your children know you want them to stay away from all tobacco products because they are not safe. 

Author: Lorrissa Dunfee, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Belmont County

Reviewer: Alisha Barton, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Miami County


“The 3 Main Reasons Youth Use e-Cigarettes.” Truth Initiative, 2018, truthinitiative.org/research-resources/emerging-tobacco-products/3-main-reasons-youth-use-e-cigarettes.

Mirbolouk, Mohammadhassan, et al. “Prevalence and Distribution of E-Cigarette Use Among U.S. Adults: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2016.” Annals of Internal Medicine, American College of Physicians, 2 Oct. 2018, annals.org/aim/article-abstract/2698112/prevalence-distribution-e-cigarette-use-among-u-s-adults-behavioral.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes).” NIDA, 2018, http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes.

Surgeon General’s Advisory on E-Cigarette Use Among Youth. e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/surgeon-generals-advisory-on-e-cigarette-use-among-youth-2018.pdf.


Have you joined the Instant Pot craze? This kitchen appliance has gone viral, changing the way we cook.  The primary reason for its popularity? Convenience!  In addition to the versatility of usage with the basic Instant Pot, you can utilize Bluetooth connectivity on the Instant Pot “Smart,” which allows remote use with the help of an app.  It is Alexa and Wifi enabled. Imagine turning on dinner from your Smartphone while you are still at work!

The Instant Pot functions as a:

  • Pressure cooker. It uses pressure and heat to cook foods, which will provide quicker cooking of foods – usually in half the time of traditional methods.
  • Slow cooker. Want to cook more slowly? The Instant Pot does that as well.
  • A fryer and steamer. The Instant Pot sautes and steams – the built in heat source at the base of the machine allows you to use the pot to sear meats and/or saute vegetables, as well as simmer liquids for steaming.
  • Rice Cooker. Easy to use; this feature makes perfect rice with liquid and sensors. You don’t have to watch over it or stir.

An instant pot is a programmable all-in-one pressure cooker. It offers many healthy food options.   It quickly batch-cooks healthy staples such as chicken breasts, eggs and potatoes.  Keeping your refrigerator stocked with pre-cooked healthy basics is a convenient way to quickly prepare different meals throughout the week.

Pros of using an Instant Pot include:

  • Uses only one dish – the instant pot! So there is a reduction in the amount of dishes to wash.
  • Uses less fat. Great for reducing the amount of fat in cooking since moisture is used instead to pressure cook. This leaves the product moist and tender with no additional fat.
  • Includes a handy timer. Set the timer and the instant pot will beep when the cook time is complete.
  • Possesses a variety of settings. Includes settings for making yogurt, searing meat, steaming, boiling and baking.
  • Dinner can start with frozen items – no need to defrost. It is safe to put frozen meats and vegetables into the Instant Pot. However, it will require additional time to pre-heat and cook.

There are many healthy Instant Pot recipes now available to use for quick meals. Most of your favorites will easily adapt to being cooked in an Instant Pot.  Just avoid recipes using lots of cheese or butter.

Written by: Beth Stefura, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Donna Green, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, green.308@osu.edu






“A friend asked me for a nude photo,” my fifteen-year-old daughter told me one night.

“He what?!” I whispered struggling to grasp onto a rational thought.

I knew this friend.  In this case, it was a boy who had been in my home. The realization that my daughter had a friend that would make such a request of her was shocking to me! I had heard these stories from friends or read about them on the internet. I naively tucked myself into a false reality where these “friends” did not exist in our lives.  Yet they did.

A study done in 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that sexting behavior (both photo and text messages) was not uncommon among middle school youth.  According to the Law Enforcement Bulletin, juvenile sexting is increasing in frequency with 20 percent of teenagers (22 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys) admitting to sending naked or seminude images of themselves or posting them online. A survey done amongst teens indicated that nearly one in six teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who own cell phones has received naked or nearly nude pictures via text message from someone they know.

The impacts of sexting can be lasting and far-reaching.  Instances of sexting have ended in youth suicide, juvenile court charges, or harassment among peers. Sometimes charges or sex offender registration requirements will follow youth into their adult years.  Even employers and colleges have reversed decisions due to pictures posted by candidates.

To help youth understand the impacts of sexting parents and caregivers should discuss sexting with early adolescents.  This can be an uncomfortable topic to approach with your teens.  Let me be blunt in saying- get over it! This is a conversation that parents must have with their kids. Approach it honestly and openly with your youth.  Ask them what their experience or friends experiences have been with sexting.  We can learn so much from just listening to our kids, and as we listen, teaching opportunities present themselves. 

Remind your teens that not everyone is sexting! The pressure to send a flirty text may be increased if they feel like they are the only one not sending nude pictures.  The statistics say 20 percent of teens, while that statistic may be higher than we want as parents, it is not every teen.  Let your teen know that 80 percent of their peers are not engaging in this behavior, and they are not alone when they say no. 

Make your teens aware of the consequences of sending these types of photos. They could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even get in trouble with the law. If a picture is forwarded to someone underage, the original sender is responsible for the image.  The sender may face child pornography charges, jail time, or have to register as a sex offender. 

Help your teens understand that after they hit “send” they no longer have control over where their pictures end up. The boyfriend or girlfriend they share it with can easily share it with their friends, and their friends with their friends, and on and on. . .  Encourage your teens to not take images of themselves that they would not want everyone to see.

When teens receive or are shown a nude or inappropriate photo encourage them to tell a parent, teacher or a trusted adult.  Helping them to have a plan when they encounter these situations will help them know how to respond appropriately.

As a parent or caregiver if a teen approaches you with a nude photo they’ve sent themselves or received from someone else, take a deep breath.  It is important to keep lines of communication open. Reacting too harshly or overacting can hinder future communication with your teen about tough subjects.

Although I was concerned about the request my daughter had received after we talked I appreciated the opportunity it created to have a conversation about sexting. The conversation carried over into discussions with my other children, coworkers and friends.  She shared with me what she had done to respond to the request; saying no and blocking the friend from her social media.

For more tips on tackling tough technology conversations with your kids visit The American Academy of Pediatrics.


Ohio House Updates “Sexting” Law Related To Minors: Majority Caucus: The Ohio House of Representatives. (2018) http://www.ohiohouse.gov/republicans/press/ohio-house-updates-sexting-law-related-to-minors

Sexting: Risky Actions and Overreactions. (2010). https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/featured-articles/sexting-risky-actions-and-overreactions

Talking to Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting -Tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013)


Sexting and sexual behavior in at-risk adolescents.(2014) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904272/

Written by: Alisha Barton, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Miami County


Reviewed by: Lorrissa Dunfee Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Belmont County