When my seventeen-year-old daughter and her boyfriend pass up homemade lemon meringue pie in favor of going to Starbucks to try the new Unicorn Frappuccino ("We promise--we'll share one!"), it's easy to believe the battle is lost.
According to the Starbucks site, a grande Unicorn contains 410 calories and a jaw-dropping 59 grams of sugar. That would be 11.8 teaspoons of sugar, or two days' worth of the World Health Organization's recommended allowance.
As much as you can still advise or boss around a high school senior, I shrieked, "But don't eat any more sugar today! Diabetes!"
Not that lemon meringue pie is a vegetable, exactly, but its ingredient list doesn't contain anything called "Blue Drizzle" or "Sour Blue Powder." Consider the Unicorn's make-up:
Ice, Milk, Crème Frappuccino Syrup [Water, Sugar, Salt, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid], Whipped Cream [Cream (Cream, Mono And Diglycerides, Carageenan), Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid)], Mango Syrup [Sugar, Water, Mango Juice Concentrate, Natural Flavor, Passion Fruit Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate, Turmeric, Gum Arabic], Blue Drizzle [White Chocolate Mocha Sauce (Sugar, Condensed Skim Milk, Coconut Oil, Cocoa Butter, Natural Flavor, Salt, Potassium Sorbate, Monoglycerides), Classic Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid), Sour Blue Powder (Citric Acid, Color [Spirulina, Water, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid])], Pink Powder [Dextrose, Fruit And Vegetable Color (Apple, Cherry, Radish, Sweet Potato)], Sour Blue Powder [Citric Acid, Color (Spirulina, Water, Sugar, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid)].
When you feel relieved to know carageenan is made from seaweed and that some people actually pay to take spirulina supplements, you know you're in new territory. It's a smoothie...kinda. It's a health food! Only made of sugar, dipped in sugar, and topped with sugar.
For that bizarre concoction, this was turned down:
Homemade lemon meringue pie clocks in at 7.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving (one serving = 1/8 of a 9-inch pie). Again, over the daily maximum. The best option appears to be skipping dessert altogether, sadly. But, assuming you're human and have not decided to go sugar-free till death, let's get back to our face-off.
Unicorn Frappuccino: 11.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving
Lemon Meringue Pie: 7.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving
Winner: Lemon Meringue Pie
Unicorn Frappuccino: 15% of US RDA of Vitamin A! From the mango and passion fruit juices, I'm guessing
Lemon Meringue Pie: 11.6 % US RDA of Vitamin C, naturally. But also more more than a trace source of vitamins A, E, and B6, as well as thiamine and folate. The lemon juice and zest even contain a wee bit of fiber.
Winner: Lemon Meringue Pie
If you're a teenager or prefer to drink your desserts, you'll give the prize to the Unicorn.
If you're into bright flavors, pie crust, and texture variety, not to mention knowing what's in your food, you'll choose the Lemon Meringue Pie.
And if you fall in the latter group and get a hankering, here's the recipe:
Lemon Meringue Pie
(from Sweet Auburn Desserts by Sonya Jones)
1 prebaked pie shell
3/4 - 1 cup sugar
5 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 c milk
4 eggs, separated
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
pinch of salt
1/4 c sugar
Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan and gradually add the milk. Mix until cornstarch is dissolved. Cook over moderate heat until it comes to a boil, stirring constantly.
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks. Gradually mix 1 cup of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, then add the yolk mixture back into the remaining milk. Simmer over moderate heat for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest, stirring until the butter melts. Set aside and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 350F.
To make the meringue, beat the egg whites with cream of tartar and salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the sugar just until the meringue holds stiff peaks.
Pour the filling into the pie shell and spread the meringue over the top, covering completely and sealing the meringue to the shell. Form peaks with a plastic spatula. Bake the pie 12-15 minutes, or until the tips of the meringue are golden.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
And, if they turn the pie down for Unicorn Frappuccinos...well, more for you. Just space it out over a few days!