In re: Marketing veggies

An interesting article in the New York times by Michael Moss whose book on processed food I’ve been meaning to read. In this article they get an ad firm to create an ad campaign for broccoli and see what it would look like and the results are pretty good I think. He also explores why veggies are more expensive and not a bigger part of our diets.

Government spending mirrors the private sector. Greens and leafy vegetables, for example, together get only $13 million from the government in research funding; corn receives $121 million.

via Broccoli’s Extreme Makeover – NYTimes.com.

In re: Vegetarian Cooking

[This was an unpublished post from over a year ago – still trying to eat more veggie only meals. Haven’t posted in a while and figured I throw this up as is]

Vegetarian eating at good restaurants is pretty easy, especially if its at Indian restaurants where I don’t often see the need for meat (we still often get Butter Chicken/Makahani Masala – but the rest are veggies). Cooking good vegetarian meals night after night can be a little tougher though. (As I’ve mentioned I’m not a vegetarian and currently not planning to be one, but I am trying to eat less meat and more vegetables for the countless reasons Mark Bittman and others have pointed to).

Making vegetarian doesn’t need to be hard of course, lets look at the standard spaghetti with marianara, served with some vegetables you got yourself a meal that even vegetarians wouldn’t mind. The problem isnt’ that there aren’t many veggie pasta dishes, pizzas, or the like, its that if you want to branch out into broader menus you kind of find that veggie cooking requires a bit more thought – at least to someone who isn’t used to doing it.
I think of it this way, in the classic world of protein, starch and vegetable, you don’t need to do to much, you can sear a steak, a cut of chicken or pork and add potatoes and a vegetable and without much fuss most people see a meal. Take out the meat though and replace with another vegetable dish and you don’t have a meal, you have a trio of sides and suddenly it seems boring. Before with the meat you could have steamed broccoli and some mashed potatoes and that worked, I think without it your into boring territory.

So what do you need to do to make a good vegetarian meal? Well at least in my opinion it means adding more components, either ingredients and/or sauces and/or layers of flavors. This can take any number directions but generally it means adding more little elements, but doesn’t necessarily mean more work.

As an example vegetarian meal I like is patacon (I first became familiar with patacon at El Arepazo, here in Columbus a Venezuelan/Latin American restaurant). Patacon is basically a fried plaintain covered with meat, cheese, and some veggies and at El Arepazo you have to top it with cilantro sauce.
They do a great vegertarian version where rice, beans and some grilled veggies get added in place of the meat. Its a filling, delicious dish, that doesn’t make you think your missing anything.

I do a similar dish at home that uses brown rice, black beans, fried plaintains, sauteed zucchini and onions, a little cheese, lettuce, some corn salsa (from Trader Joes), cilantro sauce and anything else that strikes my fancy at that moment.

Its a lot of elements and it means having one frying pan to make the plantains, one to cook up the veggies, a pot for beans if your cooking them from dried, a rice cooker or another burner for the rice. So potentially your looking at a four burner recipe and a lot of different elements. It can be somewhat simplified however, putting the rice out of sight and mind in a rice cooker right when you start of course makes things easier and clears up some space (you still gotta wash it of course…) and cooking up the zucchini and onions first and putting them aside works fine and then using the same pan to fry up the plantains. I like to use dried beans if possible, but if I haven’t planned ahead using a can works and means I might just microwave them up.

The sauce takes a few minutes and messing up a blender or food processor – but trust me the dish is nothing without it. I’ve written up a version of the sauce before on here, but I have made it more recently as more an herb vinaigrette without mayo/sour cream. The sauce using vinegar and/or lime, garlic, jalepeno, and whole lots of cilantro makes a very tasty sauce. Yogurt makes a super tasty sauce and can replace the oil to switch it to a creamy sauce.

So once your done making all these elements you layer up the dish, with all the elements and drizzle on the cilantro sauce over the top. It’s an amazing dish, hearty from the beans, rice and plantain, each bite has little elements of the various components and flavors and is quite flexible, you could leave out the rice, or the beans, change the vegetables involved make it more like a salad with a lot of lettuce or less.

In re: Conquering the New Year

So it’s a new year and a lot of folks are trying to live up to their resolutions. I’ve never been that into them, maybe its the cliche nature of the whole thing, but this year I’ve come up with a few basic ideas of things I’d like to try and do and hopefully cliche or not I can stick to some of them. One of course is going to the gym. Having quit my last gym when I moved a year ago its been quite a while since going and its hard to get back into the routine (when you get into the routine its great – it’s amazing how hard it can be to break the cycle and get going again, seems like the new year is my chance). Found a place near where we live that seems like a good value and not too crowded. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

The Wall Street Journal had a funny list of 27 Rules of Conquering the Gym – which while often unsaid are pretty spot on.

15. If you’re motivated to buy an expensive home exercise machine, consider a “wooden coat rack.” It costs $40, uses no electricity and does the exact same thing.
….
19. If a gym class is going to be effective, it’s hard. If you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself, you’re at brunch.
….
27. There is no secret. Exercise and lay off the fries. The end.

One of the other things I’ve been aiming to stick to in the new year is following some of Mark Bittman’s advice about reducing meat intake and going to a more veggie diet. While I don’t intend to become a vegetarian (just yet at least) making vegetarian meals more often is part of the plan as well as making other meals more veggie focused. To aid in this effort grabbed the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian Edition iPhone app and flipped through it (also plan to buy the paper copy as despite sharing the material they aren’t exactly substitutes). I am surprised to learn from friends that they aren’t that familiar with the original How to Cook Everything cookbook and am always thrilled to point them to it as a reference. Its the first place I usually go for basic dishes and everyday simple things. I’ll probably posting more on some of the new dishes I try out so heads up on that.

In re: Cleveland Clinic to Add Transparency.

The Cleveland Clinic plans to announce this week it has begun publicly reporting the business relationships that any of its 1,800 staff doctors and scientists have with drug and device makers.

The clinic, one of the nation’s most prominent medical research centers, is making a complete disclosure of doctors’ and researchers’ financial ties available on its Web site, http://www.clevelandclinic.org.

via Cleveland Clinic Discloses Doctors’ Industry Ties – NYTimes.com

Seems like a move more will have to follow, but definitely a good move considering the money out there from Rx companies and the possibility of ‘confused’ motives.

In re: Jarvik out as Lipitor Pitchman

If you remember my post on Dr. Robert Jarvik and RX advertising (In re: Rx advertising – Liptor and Dr. Jarvik) you’ll recall that he was mostly a celeb indorser of sorts and that his medical creditenals were dubious at best.  Well now in the wake of an investigation into the advertising by the House Energy & Commerce committee Lipitor has stopped running the ads that “have Dr. Jarvik enthusing over Lipitor “as a doctor and a dad,”

Despite the presentation that he is a doctor “he [Jarvik] is actually an inventor and researcher. He has a medical degree, but did not go through residency training and is not licensed to practice medicine or prescribe drugs. The commercials also fail to note that Dr. Jarvik only started taking Lipitor about a month after he started touting its virtues under a contract that would pay him a minimum of $1.35 million over two years.”  See NY Times Lipitor’s Pitchman Gets the Boot

Personally as you may recall I am not a fan of the way Rx companies present drugs to us and the fact that such huge amounts are spent pitching them to people (us) who are really unqualified to choose among the products.  While there may be some dialogs that open up because of the commercials and some ailments that would not have been treated otherwise I think if looked at in total we gotta figure out someway of reigning in the advertising practices without stepping too much on the commercial free speech of the Rx companies (don’t worry though, with their lobbying dollars there is no way they end up with too bad a situation in anything).  Also see WSJ Health Blog: Jarvik: My Credibility Was Justified and Fairly Represented (“The record needs to show that the ad campaign Pfizer tastefully presented to the public, using beautiful natural settings and high tech modern architecture, fairly represents me as a world recognized heart expert.”)

In re: Cleveland Clinic has gone global

ccad.gifThe Cleveland Clinic is by far and away the biggest brand in Cleveland and the largest employers (probably the biggest real estate holder, but I don’t know about that one – they do seem to grow by a block or two along Carnegie and Euclid Ave every year as well as branches in Florida for all the snowbirds).  The Cleveland Clinic however has now set its sites a lot wider then the area west of University Circle in Cleveland with plans to run a hospital in Abu Dhabi, UAE (Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi page) as well as other plans for Shanghai and Austria, and more likely then not other countries will follow (technically they were already global with a branch in Toronto, CA, (Cleveland Clinic Canada) but nothing on the scale of the proposed 2.5 million square foot facility, planned for Abu Dhabi). See article ‘Cleveland Clinic has its eyes on a global brand‘ Cleveland Plain Dealer

In the comments on the Plain Dealer article a few people complain that this is looking past the people of Cleveland and that as a non-profit this is wrong.  I disagree and think that this is exactly what the Clinic should be doing, eventually the Clinic will reach capacity for Cleveland (there are only so many people who can fly in for treatment) and only so many Clevelanders that need the highly specialized treatments that their true value is seen in.  Further its not like Cleveland or the Clinic don’t benefit from expanding the brand, its very likely that gains and experiences halfway around the world will resonate and provide benefits at home, as well as creating pipelines to feed Doctors to Cleveland for training and back again – taking with them positive vibes (hopefully) about Cleveland (and the US).

America has excelled at high level care (private medicines obvious strength over socialized care) and while we struggle to provide care (at least primary/preventive care) for those without insurance or funds, we can use what we have been good at and help the rest of the world – bring good will, and maybe in the process learn things from them as well.  The more ties we develop, the more interconnected we become and I believe we all benefit – maybe a bit lofty thinking for the subject of ‘just’ building hospitals, but I think its tremendous.

The Clinic branch in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf, will be a landmark structure in a new financial district to be built on al Sowa Island, one of the city’s many islands.  In renderings, the 360-bed, 2.5-million-square-foot facility looks like a collection of interlocking glass rectangles stacked atop one another….The Clinic has a 15-year operating agreement with Mubadala, a government investment company chaired by Sheik Mohammed bin Zayd al Nahyan, the crown prince of the emirate. The government is building the hospital for an undisclosed amount.

In re: Rx advertising – Liptor and Dr. Jarvik

If you’ve watched any TV over the last few years you may have seen a series of ads featuring Richard Jarvik, for Liptor, a Pfizer drug, that is trying to squeak out the most it can get before the patent runs out in a few years and apparently the sales pitch of Dr. Jarvik whose ‘creation’ of an artificial heart give him doubtful credibility to pitch the drug as some kind of expert, but in reality it is his status as pseudo-celebrity from the media circus years earlier when the artificial heart was debuted.

I am not a fan of Rx advertising and our culture of prescription, so I thought this article on Jarvik  on MSNBC here.

“Dr. Robert Jarvik’s ubiquitous appearances as a pitchman for Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor  have worked well, according to Rich Thomaselli of Advertising Age. Thomaselli notes that third-quarter sales for Lipitor hit $3.3 billion, a 15 percent increase over the same period last year.  Particularly impressive, he points out, because Lipitor already was the world’s best-selling drug — generating income of $13 billion last year alone”