Refueling with Acai

What IS acai (“ah-SIGH-ee”) and where do you get it?

If like me, you are a fan of healthy eating foodie accounts on Instagram, you have probably seen bowls full of beautiful concoctions that contain a blend of acai with other fruit. Acai berry comes from a palm tree that grows in South America. It looks like a big blueberry or a large grape. I describe the taste as tart and berry-like. It blends well with many of the fruit and vegetables you would put in a smoothie.

This berry is a main ingredient in acai bowls, which originated in Brazil. The dish makes a delicious, nutrient-packed snack or meal in minutes. According to WebMD “Acaí berries contain a number of substances that could boost health. For one, acaí berries seem to have very high levels of antioxidants — comparable to cranberries, but higher than blueberries, strawberries, and other fruits”

Frozen acai fruit puree can be purchased at a number of grocery stores. Costco, Trader Joe’s, and Vons all carry it. The puree is sold in bags that contain individually wrapped packets.

My last acai purchase came from Trader Joe’s. There are 4 packets in one bag. One packet is just the right amount for one smoothie or bowl.

TJ's acai

 

How do you eat it?

When I make smoothie bowls at home, my go-to formula comes from what I learned when I did the Forks Over Knives cooking course. That course made me the home vegan cook that I wanted to be for so long (especially after watching the FOK documentary on Netflix)!

Here are the basic components needed to make a yummy smoothie bowl:

  • Fruit

Frozen fruit is best. I like to add leafy baby greens. Using frozen fruit gives the bowl a nice, thick consistency that holds together all the solid fruit and toppings that will finish the bowl, when you mix it all together. The amounts to put in are up to you. In general I use about 1 cup of frozen strawberries, and a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of one or two other fruits. Sometimes I slice half a banana into the blender, and top the bowl with the other half sliced up. 

  • Liquid

Use a minimal amount – as little as possible just to help everything blend together. For this bowl, I used about 1/4 cup of almond milk. It should come out thick but still pourable. The more frozen items you put in the better. Tip: The frozen acai packet comes out in a rectangular block. It can be awkward to blend, and may still be in a square chunk while everything else is almost liquified. To avoid this, I defrost the puree overnight in the fridge or soak it in hot water until it can easily break into pieces.

  • Toppings

This is the best part IMHO! Sliced fruit, chopped nuts, granola, shredded coconut, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and cacao nibs are my favorites. I always have these on hand. The key is to have crunchy and chewy bits that give the dish an interesting blend of textures. Drizzle honey or agave syrup all over to add a bit of sweetness if you need it.

  • A Blender
  • A smart phone with an Instagram account to show it off (just kidding!)

 

Here’s how to assemble the bowl:

  • Add your fruit and liquid choices to your blender, along with additional add-ins like nut butter or protein powder
  • Blend until there are no more solids chunks in it
  • Heavily garnish the bowl with any and all the toppings you want
  • Take a pretty picture
  • Mix it all up
  • Grab a spoon and DIG IN

 

What I had for lunch today:

Smoothie Bowl

What was in it (and is now in my belly):

Acai, strawberries, baby kale, bananas, almond milk, 1 tsp peanut butter

with

Toppings: (clockwise) Bananas, chia seeds, granola, hemp hearts, blueberries, cacao nibs, pepitas.

 

***Here’s something for inspiration and a money-saving HACK: look at the menu for acai bowls at any smoothie place IN THE WORLD! I simply searched “Acai menu Los Angeles” and found multiple restaurant menus with beautiful photos of their smoothie bowls, listing the ingredients and additional toppings choices. Then, be floored by the restaurant prices! Whaaaa??? Do realize that for the price of one bowl, you could purchase enough ingredients to make smoothie bowls for days at home!? Put those items on your grocery shopping list and WIN at the smoothie bowl game.

My family and I practice capoeira, an Afro- Brazilian martial art that encompasses movement, music, culture, and community. After several months’ hiatus, I resumed my training today. Naturally, when I got home from capoeira training, I refueled with my humble version of this Brazilian treat!

-Dr. L

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