Sunday, January 08, 2012

Science Sunday: Why I'm a damned dirty hippie. Sort of.

Dear Diary,

I am a huge nerd. I always ask "why?" My undergraduate degrees are a compsite of two years each of biology, chemistry, and physics, with lots of geology thrown in. So, I google the shit outmof everthing. I figured what I learned would be useful for somebody, somewhere.

I've started making and eating seitan again, because it's cheap, and it's lean.  Seitan, especially ground, is unrecognizable in most recipes except meat loaf (still developing that one) and hamburgers (it doesn't stick together). Today, I used it in lasagna and chili.  It's a lot like Morningstar Farms crumbles, but way cheaper, and MS has soy, which I can't eat.

In showing you why I use seitan in place of ground beef, I will also show you two phone apps that show the calorie counts of food.  PS. seitan is made from gluten flour, so if you're gluten intolerant, well...sorry.

Here's why I started making it again.

1. It's cheap, and so am I.

I buy my vital wheat gluten here.  I never, ever buy it in stores. THAT gluten is marketed to hippies with bread machines, and its way too much $$. Seitan, when properly made, quadruples the weight of the flour. So, a pound of seitan flour = four pounds of ground seitan. For around $3.50. Plus, there's waste when you cook ground meat. All those drippings. Except in Alabama, where I'm from, where they give drippings as gifts JUST KIDDING ALABAMA DON'T COME AFTER ME.

2. It's a lean source of protein with no saturated fat.

Things you should know: first that % of fat on the front of the ground turkey or ground beef package doesn't work the way you think it will.  

Now the sciencey parts.  Things you should know: 
1. The fat is meat is nearly all saturated fat.  The fat in wheat is not.
2. The label that says that my super lean 1% or 3% ground turkey refers to the weight. However, a gram of fat is about 9 calories, and a gram of protein or carbs is about 5.  I don't know about you, but I like to spend my calories wisely.  

Here is a nutrition labels from Calorie Count app showing ground turkey.   I didn't turn them around because remember, I. Am Lazy.   I usually buy 97% lean.

Calorie Count is clumsy (more for iphones than ipads) and it makes you log in.  
But, it has those nice little pie charts, and it has a search feature.  

See the little pie charts? They tell you the percentage of calories are from fat. Even the 1% ground turkey is still 1/8 fat. That's because meat is muscle, and muscle is protein + fat. You really can't get 100% lean mean without some serious chemical engineering.

Just for fun, here's a label from regular ground beef.
Calorie King has the best database, a nicer interface, doesn't make you log in.
It doesn't have a search feature. I don't need the search feature or the pie chart, so I'll use it.
This is from 70/30 ground beef (70% "lean") Now multiply with me. And divide. A gram of fat is 9 calories, so 15 grams of fat is 105 calories.  That means that this ground beef is nearly half fat.

Now, about Seitan. 

 2 ounces of seitan, an egg-sized piece, or a quarter cup of it ground, is less than 50 calories, nearly every single bit of it lean protein.  
I use that amount because that's about how much you'd put on a sloppy joe, or a taco. That's about a third of the calories of lean cooked ground beef. I found a recipe for making it in the pressure cooker.  I make the cutlets, and then grind them in my little handy chopper.  
For Christmakwanzakah, I got an electric pressure cooker.  I LOVE this thing.  But anyway. 

So I'm not going back to all veggie.  In fact, Saturday night is grilling night, and grilled Quorn just isn't the same as a nice juicy chicken breast or steak.  But I'm dialing down the amount of meat we're eating, to get my bang for my nutritional buck.  If I'm going to eat calories, I want them to be good, healthy calories.

Next week: Why I'm a Whole Wheat fascist.



  1. This fascinates me! I am not a vegan or anything.. I just don't like meat - it completely grosses me out. I do like the jenny o extra lean turkey. I make turkey tacos with it every week. BUT, I would like more "meat" like options so maybe I'll try this out…

  2. I love that you're putting some nutritional stuff out here, even if I'm NOT a science nerd (just a garden variety book nerd) and reading this gave me a headache. (I'm not criticizing...the headache is from my slowness, not your explanation). We use a ton of meat here, expensive both bank- and health-wise. The more I read about better food choices, the more likely I am to try something new. Thanks!

  3. Interesting. What if the drippings are actually good for you?? I was a vegetarian for 20 years but am now eating meat. Here is one of my favorite articles in regards to fat:

    I am not trying to be pushy. I just think this is fascinating stuff.
    Happy cooking!

  4. Helen, it's interesting you should mention that. I used to make a soup that started out with a pound of chopped bacon, cooked. I used the drippings with flour to make a rioux, and then added chicken stock, cheddar cheese, and potatoes. I think it's why Baboo asked me to marry him.

  5. Counter point to the NY Times article

    I married you for the Jello ;-)


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