How to lose weight — by working around the house
It’s January again, which means it’s time for New Year’s resolutions. (Can I hear an unenthusiastic “yay”?)
One of the most popular resolutions every year is to lose weight. But before you get a gym membership or vow to lay off the pastrami, keep in mind that there’s an easier way to burn calories — by doing things around the house.
According to CalorieLab, an online health and nutrition database, simple household activities such as redecorating, cleaning or gardening can burn just as many calories as some exercises. The following are some common household tasks, along with the number of calories burned per hour for a typical 150-pound person. So this year, resolve to give your home a makeover, and you’ll be doing your body some good as well.
Calories burned: 340
The new year is a great time to take a fresh look at the furniture and accessories in your home — and move them around. Besides rearranging larger furniture pieces such as chairs and tables, I also love the idea of switching accessories around in different rooms. For example, move some tchotchkes from the living room into the various bedrooms and vice versa. It will feel like you have new décor items without spending a dime. January is also the time to pack up all the holiday items, box them, and carry them to storage — all calorie-burning activities.
And if you have to go up and down stairs as you move your household items, you burn even more, up to 544 calories. For comparison, vigorous weightlifting burns 340 calories per hour, while circuit training burns 476 calories.
Painting the walls
Calories burned: 238
Giving your walls a new paint color is one of the most effective ways to freshen up your home — and get the heart pumping. The continuous movement of the paint brush or roller also helps condition your arms. And while you’re waiting for the paint to dry, do a few bicep curls with the paint cans for some extra toning.
Sweeping and vacuuming
Calories burned: 156 to 170
I always work up a sweat cleaning the floors. And quite frankly, it takes me more than an hour to do the whole house, so say goodbye to even more calories.
Cleaning the gutters
Calories burned: 272
In the winter months, it’s important to remove fallen leaves and debris from your gutters, as a well-maintained gutter system will help prevent water damage to your home. The next time it rains, check to see if water is running freely from your downspouts. If water is trickling out of the spouts, it’s probably time to clean out the debris, either with your hands or by flushing the system with a garden hose.
Refinishing your wood furniture
Calories burned: 238
If your cabinets or wood furniture could use a new finish, the elbow grease involved with buffing, polishing and waxing is a major calorie crusher. You’ll also no doubt be moving the furniture around as you go, which means burning even more calories.
Calories burned: 136 to 340
Whether you’re weeding, trimming shrubs, hauling branches or chopping wood, working in your yard is great exercise. Even casually strolling through the garden to pick flowers or vegetables can make a difference. And the fresh air will do you good.
Cooking and setting the table
Calories burned: 68 to 102
All that work around the house is bound to make you hungry. The good news is that the process of cooking actually burns calories, and setting the table burns even more. So does that mean the more you cook, the more weight you lose? Hmm, I’ll test that hypothesis and get back to you next year.
Living off the land
When I think of the original baby boomer, I think of our friend Jay Farbstein. He is an architect specializing in the design of large government buildings, and he lives on his family’s original property off Sunset Boulevard, in a rural area of Pacific Palisades.
He grew up helping his father tend the family vegetable garden, and has maintained it for many years.
The first time we met was at a dinner where the subject was food and wine, and after meeting Jay and his wife, Bonnie, we realized that we all love to cook.
After talking about his garden that night, we were surprised when there was a knock on our door the next day, and he arrived with a care package of seasonal vegetables.
A few months later, we were invited to visit the couple and, as we drove down their driveway, the first thing we came to was the vegetable garden, which is about 2,400 square feet.
At the entrance of the garden, there is a cast aluminum memorial plaque dedicated to his father, Milton, that was installed in 2007. The area is surrounded by a fence covered with passion fruit vines, and when the first fruit is in season we often visit Jay and help with the harvest.
Nearby is an 8-by-12-foot greenhouse that was a birthday present from Bonnie. It is stocked with seedlings that mature much faster there than in the outside garden, and they are replanted as needed.
For example, the cucumbers mature a month ahead of those planted in the outside garden, and he picks the chili peppers year-round. In the greenhouse, parsley, chives and basil are available all winter, and early tomatoes are an extra bonus.
Recently, we were invited to Jay and Bonnie’s for a dinner. We dined on dishes that featured a variety of seasonal veggies from his garden: Fresh English Pea Soup, Beet and Burrata Salad, and Stuffed Squash Blossoms.
At the root of all of this is Jay’s fantastically green thumb, and he has a number of suggestions for fellow boomers who may want to join him in his hobby — starting with the tools of the trade. There is a special gardening stool that helps avoid bending over a lot. It can be adjusted to sit close to the ground or higher — either 4 inches or 1 1/2 feet off the ground — depending on what you are doing. It has handles and can easily be turned over to flip it upside down. In the future, Jay said he will put in raised beds, to make the work even easier.
He also keeps his garden packed with lots of compost. He uses the leaves that fall off the trees for compost and adds them to the soil.
If you have a gardener, be sure to let him do the digging — your back will thank you. Still, Jay insists on doing all the planting, weeding and picking himself.
Jay plants lettuces, carrots, beets and peas in the fall to harvest during the winter and spring. Then, in the spring, he puts in his summer veggies — tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, beans and peppers — which he harvests all summer and into the fall. Which means it’s always a good time for gardening!
FRESH ENGLISH PEA SOUP
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter or olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- 6 cups fresh peas, shelled
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Crème fraiche and chives for garnish
In a sauté pan, heat butter and sauté onion until soft. In a pot, heat vegetable stock and add peas and cook (do not overcook) until tender. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Push through a sieve into pot and add salt and pepper to taste.
Chill before serving, ladle into bowls or stem glasses and garnish with crème fraiche and minced chives.
Makes 12 servings.
BEET AND BURRATA SALAD
- 6 fresh beets
- 12 lettuce leaves
- 1 pound burrata cheese
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup pistachio nuts for garnish
Place beets in a pot, add water to cover and boil until beets are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove beets, peel and cool.
Slice beets into 1/4-inch slices. Arrange lettuce leaves on serving plates, top with a scoop of burrata cheese, arrange beet slices on top and sprinkle with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and garnish with pistachio nuts.
Makes 12 servings.
STUFFED SQUASH BLOSSOMS
- 12 squash blossoms with zucchini still attached
- 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1⁄4 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Carefully open blossoms wide; remove the pistils from inside the zucchini blossom and discard. (The pistil is the fuzzy, yellow floret found in the center of the squash blossom.) Set aside blossoms (keep zucchini attached throughout).
To prepare the stuffing: In a large bowl, beat the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs and salt and pepper until smooth. Taste the mixture; it should be highly seasoned. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
To fill the blossoms, the easiest way is to spoon the filling into a large pastry bag, but a small spoon also will work. Fill the clean blossoms about three-quarters full,
and gently squeeze the petals together over the top of the filling to seal.
Brush a 10-by-14-inch baking dish with olive oil and arrange the stuffed zucchini flowers in the dish. Sprinkle the blossoms with salt, pepper and olive oil. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake, in preheated oven, until the cheese is puffy and the juices that run from the blossoms begin to bubble.
Makes 12 servings.
Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.
Recipe: Pappardelle with long-cooked asparagus and basil
My father, may he rest in peace, was a champion Yankee gardener, as proud of his vegetables as he was of the considerable flowerbeds that surrounded his bayside home. He did almost all the work himself — preparing the beds and cold frames, planting, transplanting, weeding, deadheading and harvesting — although there was a man who came to mow the lawns once a week or so.
Like most champion gardeners in these chilly northern parts, my father relished especially the first springtime harvest, no matter what it was: first peas, first strawberries, first lettuce (served at table the old-fashioned way, with sugar and vinegar as a dressing) and above all first asparagus.
He was also first up in the morning and out in his garden almost at sunrise, snapping off the tender shoots of asparagus right at the base. Then for breakfast we'd have aspara-grass, as we called it, cooked in my father's unique and (fortunately) almost inimitable fashion, boiled or steamed until the poor, plump stalks were limp and gray with exhaustion, then piled them atop a toasted slice of Wonder Bread, liberally spread with butter, and with more butter, melted now, pooled on top — along with the leftover juices, which of course turned the toast to soggy pap. My father was a much better gardener than he was a cook.
I was fully grown before I discovered the pleasures of underdone asparagus and had to wait for my own garden patch before I understood that the best asparagus in the world, like the best peas, is consumed standing in the garden and contemplatively chewing on what you've harvested only seconds before. Come to think of it, because all fruits and vegetables begin to deteriorate in the normal course of things as soon as they're harvested, don't you get the fullest impact of all those vitamins, minerals and fiber when you eat food, as it were, straight from the ground? I'm no raw foodist, but it does seem to me there's an argument there.
Fast forward to the present day, when my daughter, Sara, and I were working on our first cookbook together, “The Four Seasons of Pasta.” Of course, the spring season must have asparagus pasta recipes, and so we set diligently to work. I've done tagliatelle for years with grilled or seared asparagus and sliced red onions, tossed in a creamy goat-cheese dressing, the asparagus just barely cooked so it still has a lot of crunch. As they say on Facebook: YUM! But I was stopped in my tracks when Sara proposed a recipe that's a favorite from her restaurant: pappardelle with long-cooked asparagus. “Long cooked?” I shuddered, remembering those breakfasts of soggy toast and limp, discolored spears of asparagus.
She ignored my qualms and went ahead with the recipe. And you know what? It was terrific! The melting softness of the asparagus sauce, made from the stalks cut small and indeed overcooked, contrasts beautifully with the still-crisp flavors of the tips, which retain some of their brightness because they're cooked for a short time. We made it again for dinner recently, with the first of the local asparagus, and once again marveled at how pasta can serve as a perfect foil for the first of spring's offerings, whether peas or asparagus or possibly even strawberries.
Pappardelle With Long-cooked Asparagus and Basil
Asparagus is a delight when freshly picked and barely blanched. Its sweet vegetal flavors are a welcome herald to spring. But as the season winds on and the spears get fatter and a little tougher, it's also good cooked thoroughly, to break down the tough fibers and pull out a little extra sweetness along the way. It's great served over pappardelle — or any other kind of long, broad noodles, fettuccine, for instance, or even penne.
Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 to 20 minutes
Total time: 20 to 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings as a main course, 6 as a first or primo
- 2 pounds of fresh asparagus
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large shallot or 1 small spring onion, finely minced (2 tablespoons)
- Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves, in fat slivers
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- About 1 pound (500 grams) pappardelle
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano
1. Trim the asparagus by snapping off the bottoms, which break where the stem starts to get woody. Cut the stalks into 2-inch lengths, setting the tips aside.
2. Combine the butter and oil over medium heat in a saucepan or deep skillet. When the butter begins to foam, add the minced shallot (or spring onion) and the asparagus pieces, except for the tops, with a good pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Cook briskly until the shallots and asparagus take on a little color — about 8 to 10 minutes. Then turn the heat down and add the cream, 2 tablespoons water, the asparagus tips and half the basil leaves. Cover the pan and continue cooking, until the asparagus tips are tender and the liquid in the pan is reduced by half.
3. In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the asparagus sauce is ready, cook the pasta according to package directions, until it is al dente.
4. Have ready a warm serving bowl. Drain the pasta and toss in the bowl with the asparagus sauce, the remaining basil and the cheese. Add more black pepper to the top and serve immediately.
Note: You can vary the flavors by using other fresh spring herbs in place of the basil — lovage, chervil, even plain old flat-leaf Italian parsley will be very good.
6 Garden-starting tips to give your kids green thumbs
Spring has finally come to our neck of the woods, and we're beginning to take the tiny shoots from our mini-greenhouse in our basement out into the world. I want my daughters to know where their food comes from, but growing a kid-friendly garden means more than just planting kid-friendly plants.
If you want to get kids to actually eat their veggies, it helps if you get them invested in the process and care of the garden. If your kids see the backyard vegetable garden as “theirs,” they are far more likely to embrace the products: happily eating radishes and arugula that they've grown on their own. Here are six tips — tested in our home — to get your kids to embrace gardening and become active agents in creating their own food.
1. GET DIRTY
Forget the image of white-frocked children basking in a pristine flower bed; that image gets in the way of real gardening. Get your kids dirty as fast as possible. Ask them to dig with hand trowels, sticks or bare fingers, and they will leap at the opportunity. When watering, “accidentally” drench them with a good hosing. They'll squeal, then beg for more — and watering is no longer a chore but a family frolic. Make mud and get them in it. Over-plant in anticipation of grubby little fingers pulling out the extraneous shoots. A garden shouldn't be too precious. Good gardening demands some filth, and when kids realize this, they embrace it.
2. GET GROSS
Kids love gross, and a garden has it in spades. Ask your kids to find worms, then take the opportunity to discuss their impact on the soil. If your garden doesn't have enough worms, go buy them and let the kids play with their new “pets” while you're putting them into the garden. If you want to step it up a notch, create a vermiculture bin and let your kids be in charge of the worm farm. Look for beneficial insects such as ladybug larvae and lacewings. Explain that the reason you wash food that comes from the garden comes down to two words: bird poop. Some kids may react negatively to grossness, but that's part of the charm. Gross things are both attractive and repulsive to young ones, and finding that fine line where attraction and repulsion equal each other out keeps the kids coming back to the garden.
3. GET CREATIVE
Encourage your kids to rename the plants in the garden. Our girls have dubbed our sage bush as “Hairy Bigfoot Plant.” That name has made the humble herb extremely attractive to our girls and to the neighbor kids — especially after we cut out pieces from a milk jug and made markers for our newly named plants. In fact, our two girls and the neighbor boy run to this plant every morning as they walk to school and actually eat a leaf of Hairy Bigfoot Plant. Without that name, I suspect elementary school kids would not be eating raw sage leaves every morning on the way to school. Have your kids play The Name Game, and they are suddenly personally invested in growing and eating mummy peas (snap peas) and bloody spice balls (radishes).
4. GET A KIT
Kids love kits, so create an easily portable garden set for each child. You can buy them ready-made at the nursery or dollar store … but where's the fun in that? Ask your kids to choose cheap tools for themselves, or gather the tools you already have and put them in specific kits. We turned milk jugs into garden kits, but a tote bag or plastic bucket works just as well. Add more than just a trowel rake and gloves. Put in a magnifying glass, eyedroppers, specimen jars and other “scientific” tools to deploy in the garden. When it's time to do some weeding, tell your kids to grab their kits and you suddenly have an eager workforce.
5. GET EXPERIMENTAL
Make your garden a laboratory, not a display. Ask your kids to experiment with the dirt, the compost, the layout and the results of your planting. Turn gardening into a science experiment. When the plants are coming up, try taste experiments — is this bitter? Sour? Sweet? This type of hands-on discovery helps kids understand that “good” doesn't always mean “familiar” — so that when your crop is ready for the kitchen, your kids will beg to try to results. This may require you to set aside a part of your garden to be devoted to the kids' experiments (so that you don't ruin your entire crop) but their creative/destructive explorations will personalize your garden… and its results.
6. GET DRAMATIC
Learn a lesson from molecular gastronomy: Presentation and entertainment are part of the full experience of food. When it was time to thin the new shoots of butter crunch lettuce and arugula, we had our girls wash the tiny shoots and arrange them attractively on a platter with small chunks of string cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. A garden chore suddenly becomes an art project, then a dish of Farm-To-Table Micro-Greens. In the garden itself, use the “experimental” area for play as well as work: Set up scenes, fairy gardens or Lego cities beneath the plants. The “forest” of carrots grows more lush around the tiny family that lives beneath it … then Godzilla descends at harvest time, pulling the trees by the roots as the dolls run and scream in horror. The garden becomes a playground, and the plate becomes a stage, turning the concept of “playing with your food” into a deeper understanding of the earth, growing plants and the process of creating and eating food.
Using early Zionists’ script, Jewish volunteers aim to empower West Bank Palestinians
They dig their fingers into the dirt, their knees bearing into the ground as they embed sprigs of thyme in identical rows. The sun beats down on the small plot, and the work can be tedious, but these volunteers — most of them American, most of them Jewish — plant with a purpose.
They had met early Friday morning in Jerusalem and set off on an hourlong bus ride through the terraced, rocky hills south of the city. Upon arriving at their destination, a Palestinian village about 20 miles south of Hebron, residents welcomed them with coffee, tea and a short account of the community’s history that traced decades of war and resettlement.
Then the volunteers got to work.
Jews have long sought empowerment through working the land, but these volunteers did their work in Palestinian villages rather than Israeli ones. Their mission was one that both Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis have pursued for decades: to create “facts on the ground,” entrenching a community’s presence by deepening its footprint.
“We wanted to bring a large group of people to be a presence and do some actual physical work that will be helpful for the community,” said Daniel Roth, who was born in Toronto and immigrated 3 1/2 years ago to Israel. “We’re connecting on this very hands-on, life-bringing level.”
Nearly 100 volunteers on the trip, most of them in their 20s, were part of the Israel-based organization All That’s Left — a nod to the left-wing politics of its members, who oppose Israel’s presence in the West Bank. Last Friday and Saturday, they helped plant gardens and pave a road in the Palestinian villages of the South Hebron Hills.
Early Zionists insisted that working the land could lead to self-determination in the Land of Israel, and they inspired waves of kibbutzniks to establish farming communes. Generations of tourists have made a point of planting a tree in one of the country’s national forests or sponsoring one through the Jewish National Fund’s blue tin charity boxes.
Adopting that ethos to support Palestinians drew criticism from Shmaaya Asolin, the spokesman for Israeli settlements in the South Hebron Hills. He called volunteers who work in the Palestinian villages “naive” and “anarchists,” and said Palestinians use these groups to provoke violence from the settlers.
“They make up fake stories and stain the reputation of settlers,” he said. “The camera is the weapon. They want to draw people out.”
The South Hebron Hills, which are under full Israeli civil and military control, have become a flashpoint of conflict in the West Bank. Palestinians there complain of lack of access to basic resources like water and protest Israeli restrictions on building permanent structures in their villages.
“I don’t know where the law or the justice is in this situation,” Nasser Nawajah, a resident of the nearby Palestinian village of Susiya, told the volunteers through a translator. “Here, in this place, the law that’s used is might makes right.”
Susiya, home to some 350 villagers, is a collection of tents on a rocky hill overlooking an Israeli settlement also called Susiya. The village lacks an electrical grid, running water and paved roads, and one of its only permanent structures is a small playground. Palestinian flags flutter from many tents.
After working Friday, the volunteers held a Shabbat service and had a communal meal with the Palestinian residents of Susiya. Many slept over and spent the next day volunteering and attending workshops on local Palestinian crafts like honey-making and embroidery.
The conflict and its consequences dominated the conversation on Friday, but some volunteers hadn’t come to choose a side. Some joined the group to see a new part of the West Bank, while others were attracted to the physicality of the work.
One participant, Ilona Gerbakher, 27, said the mission connected her to a community of left-wing Jews in Jerusalem.
“I’m glad that Israel exists,” said Gerbakher, a Jewish-American who is completing a doctorate in comparative Jewish and Islamic studies at Columbia University. “I’m blessed that this country is here and that I get to be a part of it. But I also firmly believe in the right of Palestine to exist.”
Community-supported agriculture grows on local Jews
Every Wednesday at noon, the Westside Jewish Community Center becomes a market where families pick up fresh, seasonal and certified organic fruits and vegetables grown by farmers who are part of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project established by the Tierra Miguel Foundation. About 12 families participate in the program, which was launched last May and which does not require JCC membership.
“People love the produce,” JCC Executive Director Brian Greene said. “They feel good about buying vegetables straight from the farm and supporting organic farming.”
Inspired by a Jewish Journal editorial about ethical eating (“Moral Diet,” Jan. 5, 2007), Greene began looking into affiliating with a community-supported agriculture project giving families the opportunity to purchase a seasonal or annual share in an organic farm for a predetermined payment and, in return, receive a weekly box full of fruits and vegetables.
“This is a community-building activity,” Greene said, explaining that the project connects families with farmers, allowing both to share responsibility for stewardship of the land.
Additionally, Sinai Temple is starting the first Tuv Ha’Aretz community-supported agriculture project in Southern California. Tuv Ha’Aretz is the first Jewish CSA in North America and a program of Hazon, a New York-based community organization that sponsors physical challenges and engages in food-related work.
Families who sign up — who do not need to be Sinai Temple members — will commit to buying an entire season of fresh, organic produce from the McGrath Family Farms in Camarillo.
Besides receiving the food, the families are required to participate in a social action component by volunteering at least once during the year at the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition.
“We are creating a community of people who care about health and the sustainability of the world,” said Michelle Grant, Sinai Temple’s Green Committee co-chair.
A meeting for families interested in Sinai Temple’s Tuv Ha’Aretz project, slated to begin in the spring, will take place on Jan. 22. For more information or to R.S.V.P., call (310) 481-3243.
Those interested in becoming shareholders in the Westside JCC’s community- supported agriculture program can call (323) 938-2531.
For the Kids
Do you have a backyard? Is it green and full of flowers and trees?
In Matot-Masei, we learn that God believes green space is an absolute necessity. God tells the Israelites: “Set aside some of your land for the Levites, so they can build towns. Make sure that there is lots of pasture surrounding the town. No one may build in the area that has been assigned for green.”
It is God’s commandment for us to keep the spaces around our homes green. So, let’s keep it clean and let’s keep it green!
Until July 18, there will be an HIBXETI at the KIBLLASR Cultural Center about EJSW in ancient YPGTE. If you go there on July 17, you can also participate in an HEOCALARCLOGI dig.
Solve the scramble and visit there this weekend! And even if you don’t make it, send in the answers to firstname.lastname@example.org for a prize.