The start of September in NYC rarely brings a break in the heat. In spite of the fact that I hear “September” and my mind immediately wanders off to chunky sweaters and boots and pumpkin in everything, the truth is that this month is usually still pretty hot and sticky. It’s not until the end of the month, or even early October, that the air turns cool and crisp. Case in point: this week. It’ll be in the 90s today and for a few days after.
Sometimes I fight it, baking furiously and stockpiling cans of pumpkin even though it’s still 88 degrees and humid. This year, I’m actually grateful for the continuance of warm temperatures. I’ve had a tough time with the change of seasons, for reasons I wrote about recently, and I’m taking comfort in the slow, gradual coming of fall.
So: no culinary resistance to warm weather. I’m embracing it fully—while also harboring excitement for autumn recipes to come—and this cooling, hydrating acai bowl with buckwheat cocoa clusters is a nice way to honor the still-balmy climate outside.
This is actually my first official acai bowl recipe. I’ve tried acai in the past, blending it into smoothies like any other fruit ingredient, but this is the first time I’ve used an acai smoothie as a base for something more fulsome and satisfying (and fun to decorate!).
The star topping here is my crispy buckwheat cocoa clusters, which are prepared with a hint of sweetener, almond butter, cocoa powder, and a little pinch of cinnamon. They remind me a lot of some of the raw granola recipes I’ve tried, but I love the way that they clump together into satisfying little bites. The recipe will give you plenty leftover, which means you can enjoy them as snacks or as a topping for other sorts of breakfasts. I’m excited to try them with different flavorings–maybe something chai spiced for fall–but right now, I’m all about chocolate for breakfast.
One of the challenges as weather does cool down—whenever it finally does—is that it’s easy to forget the importance of hydration. Heat and humidity give us natural hydration cues, but in cold, dry weather it can become more difficult to remember to take in fluids and electrolytes. Coconut water has always been one of my favorite sources of natural hydration; it’s electrolyte rich and naturally sweet, and it picks me up nicely when I’m fatigued, under-hydrated, or simply looking to recharge.
I like ZICO Natural Coconut Water because it has only one ingredient: 100% coconut water. There’s no sugar or flavoring added, which gives it a bright, smooth flavor. It’s rich in five electrolytes, including potassium, and it’s not from concentrate—what you get in the bottle is harvested directly from the coconuts themselves. I especially like blending the coconut water into smoothies, and I love the way it infuses this tasty bowl with its subtle sweetness.
Acai Bowls with Crispy Buckwheat Cocoa Clusters
For the Crispy Buckwheat Cocoa Clusters:
- 2 cups raw buckwheat groats
- 1 ½ tablespoons ground flax or chia meal
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds or pepitas
- ½ cup sliced or slivered almonds
- ½ cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup
- ¼ cup almond or sunflower seed butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the smoothies:
- 2 frozen bananas
- 100 grams about 1/2 cup, or 1 frozen pack acai puree
- 1 cup ZICO Natural Coconut Water more as needed
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 2 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds
- Optional toppings: fresh berries coconut flakes, nuts or seeds of choice, dried fruit of choice
- Preheat your oven to 350F and line one or two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together the syrup, almond or sunflower butter, and vanilla. In a large mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat, flax or chia meal, cocoa powder, salt, seeds, and almonds. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.
- Transfer the buckwheat mixture to a baking sheet. Spread it evenly, taking care that there are plenty of sizable clusters on the sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the clusters are evenly toasted, stirring a couple times during baking to ensure that the edges don't burn. Remove the clusters from the oven and allow them to cool completely (some of the clusters might still be soft when you take them out of the oven, but they'll harden up as they cool).
- To prepare the acai bowls, blend the bananas, ZICO Natural Coconut Water, chia, hemp seeds, and acai puree together till smooth. Divide the mixture (it should be nice and thick) into two bowls, then top each with any toppings you like, as well as a generous handful of the buckwheat cocoa clusters clusters. Serve.
I love all of the texture variety in these bowls. For the most part, I don’t gravitate toward smoothies as a breakfast option; they never fill me up for very long, no matter what I put in them, and I’m not one for drinking my meals. But a cool, sweet, thick fruit puree covered in crispy, varied, flavorful toppings? Now we’re talking.
As things really do cool off I might try blending some pumpkin into the bowl. And of course, you can play around with the fruit here, substituting frozen berries for all or some of the banana. No matter what, though, I advise you not to skip the tasty clusters. And you can serve your leftover clusters with almond milk and fruit, or simply pack them up for afternoon snacking on the go.
Whether it’s cooling off, heating up, or staying about the same where you are, I’m wishing you a happy start to September and many wonderful fall breakfasts ahead.
This post is sponsored by ZICO premium coconut water and its campaign to share the message that what’s #InsideIsEverything. All opinions are my own. Thanks for your support!