I Heart Acai Bowls

I've been on a nutritional journey to become the healthiest version of myself for about 5 years now.  This has required that I try all kinds of fruits and veggies I would normally balk at the site of.  But one new berry I love is the acai berry!  Where has it been all my life?  To be quite honest, I have only consumed this fruit in its frozen pureed version.  One morning I decided to be a little adventurous and order an acai bowl instead of my trusty loaded oatmeal bowl.  I was pleasantly surprised at the texture and taste and became hooked immediately.  The cost, however, presented a major challenge to my dining budget and there began my quest to perfect the acai bowl at home.  

After researching this purply-red berry, I was even more convinced that I needed to eat a bowl at least once a week.  I learned that acai is a superfood packed with antioxidants.  This means it help boost your immune system,  heals damaged cells, and increases energy levels.  It is also a great source of natural fiber.  I've been unfamiliar with this berry because it is indigenous to the Amazon rainforest and not readily available for purchase in most American markets.  

I'll show you how I make my acai berry bowls.  I prefer the unsweetened acai frozen packs because I do not eat sugar.  You can buy your frozen acai bars from Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. 

It's hard to find an acai bowl blended just right.  But when you do, you'll be hooked.  This super-food loaded meal can easily run you $12.  Here's how I make mine just as delicious.

It's hard to find an acai bowl blended just right.  But when you do, you'll be hooked.  This super-food loaded meal can easily run you $12.  Here's how I make mine just as delicious at a fraction of the cost.  

1. Get all your tools and ingredients set up.  Ninja, Bullet, or similar tool; (I use my Cuisinart bullet.);  Coconut water and/or Nut Milk; Banana; frozen Acai packet; nut butter; any green veggie of your liking; fruits to your liking; Chia Seeds; Hemp Seeds; Flax Seeds; Coconut shreds (unsweetened is best); sliced raw almonds; granola; honey or agave; optional cocoa nibs.  

2. Base: Blend the frozen acai, 1/2 a banana, a spoonful of nut butter, and half of a handful of green veggies with a little coconut water and/or almond milk.  use sight measurements for the liquids you add.  You simply want to be sure not to make the mixture too runny.  It should be blended to a thick frosty mix, not to a liquid.  The nut butter helps with this.  Freezing your bananas will also make this mixture more firm.  Other frozen fruit mixed in also changes the taste for a nice variety.

3. Quickly pour the thick, blended mix into a bowl.  (Work quickly because this works best if the base is firm. )

4. Toppings: Sprinkle your dried toppings ontop of the base mixture.  You may used sliced pieces of fruit on top as well.  

5. Enjoy your fantabulous bowl!

You can substitute all kinds of ingredients for the base and for the toppings.  It is best to stay away from artificially sweetened products and the fruit naturally has plenty.  If you think you need more sweet, add a drizzle of honey or agave at the end.

Collard is King!

I am so grateful that I love and enjoy vegetables.  I try new ones every day.  Kale has had a great run thanks to the "kale craze" that took over the nation a few years ago.  I had never even heard of kale until a late night hunger pang in Union Square brought me to Dirty Bird.  They had the best kale in New York City for quite some time.  Since the craze died down, I think they've neglected the delicate greens and they taste like bitter turnip greens now.  So when I'm out on the go, I head to my loyal Whole Foods hot bar.  I like kale raw, sautéed, stewed, juiced and blended.  It has been the happening leafy green that anybody who is anybody always keeps in their crisper.  Not only for the delicate leaves and mild taste, but also because it is a super-food, packing tons of nutrients our bodies thrive off of for energy.  Well now hold it just one hot second!  There is another super-food I like to keep around at all times.  As much as I love kale, and how it starts with a K making it fit for royalty, collard is my veggie King.  Feel free to make Kale your King, or even Cabbage for that matter.  I'll just tell you why I love collards.

 {in my Beyoncé "Formation" voice: } Momma North Carolina...Dad B'more and Carolina...you mix that country with that city makes this collard slammer!!! 

 Essence magazine

Essence magazine


Too much?  My bad. Let's get serious.  From a nutritional standpoint, collard greens have 4 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, 12% iron, 49 calories, 27% calcium.  These stats are double what you would find in Kale.  You need roughly 30 grams of fiber in your daily dietary intake.  Women need roughly 46 grams of protein a day.  Men need about 56.  You've achieved that with a simple portion of your daily greens.  That is why they're known to keep you "regular".  Collard greens are rich in manganese, folate, copper, choline, magnesium, potassium and vitamins E, K, B2 and B6.

Sometimes reputations are all speculation.  To know the truth, learn the history.  For several hundreds of years in America, collard green crops were ubiquitous becoming a staple food in the South.  Over time and after the Civil War, collard greens among other crops like black eye peas and watermelon became sometimes the only affordable foods for poor southerners.  Many of the White, wealthy or northern people at that time did not want to be associated with the lower class and, therefore, snubbed any of the foods the poor southerners ate.  This is largely when collard greens became known for being an African American southern food. 

You eat a food long enough, it becomes part of your culture.  Just as rice&beans (one word) is a part of Latino culture and pasta is to Italian culture, collards have become a fiber in the Southern Black American culture.  I have no problem with this history.  I embrace it.  As the descendant of those field workers (verified through my own U.S. Census record search) I thank God for creating a vegetable powerhouse able to sustain my ancestors through the harshest conditions anyone can imagine.  Despite what my ancestors may not have had, this history is so rich!  Every leaf made them stronger and stronger.  The pot liquor (remaining liquid after vegetable has cooked) is chock full of nutrients to heal wounds, cure colds, and build bones.  I think of this history whenever I eat a good plate of collard greens.   It makes the bitter greens taste even more savory in my mouth.  The leaves are so thick and yet melt so tenderly on my tongue after sometimes hours of boiling and simmering to perfection.  If you make a pot from scratch, you have to first take the time to wash them really good.  This often requires the enlistment of family and friends to do their share of the work.  Sometimes meat is added for extra flavor.  Other times, a vegetarian variety is prepared.  What matters is the work and love put into each pot.  I promise you can taste it!