Acai bowls are one of life’s weekend treasures for me. I’ve tried quite a few commercial juice bar versions, but my homemade ones are still the best. It took awhile for me to figure out the best ways to blend them and how to get the right proportions.
It all started on a weekend with @sunsetswells. I met Shonna from a chance phone call she made several years ago. Thinking about becoming a Registered Dietitian, she was a student who found me on the internet and reached out to get some guidance. Students often reach out for advice from professionals who have ‘made it’, and I always make an effort to respond to requests. I was a student once upon a time and remember having lots of questions of my own about how to best pursue my future career. (If you reached out to me and I didn’t respond–I probably missed your call or email or sadly, forgot–please reach out again!) I’ve been told by many students that despite sending out multiple requests, that quite often I was the only one who responded! That’s appalling for RDs and nutritionists whose life work is to change a country drowning in poor nutrition habits. We can’t do it alone and need to mentor younger voices on how best to manage their goals and future contributions.
Anyway, Shonna and I met several times and became friends. She was ambitious and excited about nutrition. With lots of ideas, she went off to culinary school, became a personal chef for a diabetic, and then decided to be an RD, until changing her mind. I remember her telling me at one point it was just too much work! Well, it is a lot work to become a Registered Dietitian, but then this girl went on to naturopathic school! Talk about work! Anyway, sometime during her first year at Bastyr University, Shonna came over one weekend to teach me how to make Acai bowls. Who better than my chef friend to nurture what would become an obsession? I gathered the ingredients Shonna suggested, including ginger, mint, basil, Acai, coconut water and I don’t remember what else, but there were LOTS of potential ingredients. Then we whipped up the most amazing blended bowls and I was hooked! Over the past few years, I’ve learned to tweak it a bit depending on what I have on hand.
Here is a basic recipe to which you can swap fruits, protein, or toppings. There are no rules, except the ones created by your own taste buds.
The most important thing to remember is that there is no sugar in Acai, so DON’T use Acai frozen dessert which is packed with sugar. Many commercial juice bars use this as a base–that’s a no-no. Fresh fruit contains all the natural sugar in this bowl, and there are 2 servings of fruit in this basic bowl. Don’t be tempted to add agave or honey or other sugary ingredients. These bowls also contain healthy fats from the Acai, hemp seeds, nut butter of choice and granola. And don’t be put off by 27 g of fat. That’s only 12% of calories for a 2000 calorie daily intake. You could even consider increasing the nut butter content. I love to put a wedge of whole lemon into my bowls! Use the rind and all if you have organic lemons. I grow Meyer lemons which have an incredible depth of flavor. There are also valuable antioxidants in the white pithy part of the rind called bioflavonoids. What I really appreciate about these bowls are the balance of plant based protein, healthy carb and healthy fat all rolled into one dish. Using healthy ingredients usually takes care of balance–at meals and snacks just remember to include carb, protein and fat and Mother Nature often takes care of the balance!
This nourishing and healthy bowl can even be a part of your office routine with a bit of planning. You will need to adapt the blending technique to accommodate a bullet-style blender, but it can be done! See my notes below.
Basic Acai Bowl:
309 cal, 30 g carb, 6 g fiber, 15 g sugar (no added sugar), 10 g protein, 27 g fat
1 packet of frozen Acai
1/2 frozen banana OR 1 cup frozen mango or pineapple
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1 1/2 Tbsp. peanut or almond butter
1 Tbsp. hempseed
1 Tbsp. granola, gluten free, preferably homemade with little sugar
2 Tbsp. coconut water or filtered water
Small wedge of lemon with rind–okay if organic
Fresh basil leaves
Fresh mint–try chocolate mint or ginger mint
Lemon juice or zest
Spirulina or chorella
Vitamin C powder
Nut milk—limit to 1-2 Tbsp. as it will affect the consistency
Orange or lemon zest
Any fresh fruit you desire—try to keep to 1/2 cup to control the carb load
Unsweetened Coconut flakes–I like the small ones
Break Acai into chunks before opening the packet. Put all ingredients into a high powered blender like a BlendTec. Blend, using the Smoothie or Blended Beverage settings. Stop blender to scrape down sides or loosen ingredients if the blender gets stuck. Add additional liquid a tablespoon at a time. If you add too much, there is not much recourse and you will have a soupy bowl that will be best consumed from a cup!
When ingredients reach a smooth consistency, use a rubber spatula to scrape from blender into a bowl. Top with hemp seed and granola and 1/2 cup additional fruit if desired. I used 1/3 of a nectarine and 3 bites of pineapple I needed to dispose of!
1. Run the Acai packet under water for 5 seconds. While still in unopened packet, break the Acai into chunks. Put ONLY the Acai into the blender cup. Blend until the Acai is smooth like a paste. It will be stuck to the sides of the blender cup. Scrape it down.
2. Now add the rest of your ingredients and blend.
3. Take off the motor and shake the cup or open it and scrape down the sides 1-2 times to incorporate all ingredients.
4. Add toppings and enjoy right out of the blender cup!