Monday, December 07, 2015

Sprogs Rice Scooters™

I don't even know how to write an intro for this one, so I'll just dive right in.  Sprogs.

What are Sprogs?  Well, according to the company, they are "Fresh Eats for Healthy Foodies On The Move!"  I am frequently a "foodie on the move", but, uh, the "healthy" part is obviously debatable.  But still, a new food item to try?  Obviously I was in.

Sprogs are "Rice Scooters™".   That cleared it up, right?

They are balls made from rice mixed with other ingredients.  Available in meat, vegetarian, and sweet varieties.  All are small little balls, designed as a quick grab and go option for a snack or perhaps a light meal.  Sorta like other forms of hand-held rice snacks like onigiri.

The company, based in San Francisco, was started by a mother who cared about feeding her family healthy, fresh meals, and hated the available option for grab and go meals and snacks.  So she set about creating a product that she'd be happy feeding her kids, and herself.

All varieties of Sprogs use partially milled Haiga brown rice, made from rice grown here in California.  Haiga rice is used because brown rice is more nutritious than white, and because the partial milling makes it easier to digest, without losing the nutritional benefits.  Many of the ingredients (particularly meat, eggs, and dirty dozen produce) are organic.  The corn is obviously non-GMO.  All are wheat-free and gluten-free (although not certified), and most of the vegetarian options are also vegan.

The company focuses on making the items as fresh as possible, making their own broth from scratch, their own jams (lower-sugar too), and pickling their own kimchee.  No preservatives.  Necessarily, these don't have a super long shelf life, less than a week, although they are fine left out of the fridge for a day, which is really handy.  Designed to be eaten cold, since they are a grab and go item, but they note that some people prefer to heat them up.

Sprogs sell for $2.59 each, which is a bit high for such a small treat, but makes sense given what goes into them.  You can order via GoodEggs, or they deliver in SF and Palo Alto for a reasonable delivery fee of $4.99, or they can be shipped anywhere in the US for $28 ($18 for California).

I tried many varieties, but alas, as I don't really like rice, these are certainly not the product for me.  I still think my favorite rice balls are the onigiri in the JAL lounge in SFO.  That said, Ojan, who does enjoy rice, and loves the rice balls from Onigilly, also didn't like any of these.  He finds the rice too mushy.

"Meatie"

Meat eaters have 3 choices, two with chicken (teriyaki or Jamaican jerk) and one with bacon and egg.  You can guess which one was interesting to me, given that I really dislike chicken, and, duh, bacon, when would I ever turn down bacon?  Still, no winners in this category for me.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken.
"Our. Best. Seller.  Coconut rice with red beans filled with shredded organic chicken that has been slow roasted in a hauntingly flavorful Jamaican Jerk marinade."

But I started with the best seller: Jamaican Jerk Chicken.  I was ready to hand it off to Ojan after I took my requisite bite, since I knew this wouldn't be one for me, as I don't like chicken or beans.

Surprisingly, my favorite part was the rice.  I liked the coconut rice, it used coconut milk rather than shredded coconut, so it was creamy and flavorful.  Of course, this is why Ojan didn't like it, as the rice was too mushy for his taste.  The beans were a bit mushy, but, they were beans.  I don't like them ever.  The chicken was in the middle, and I didn't try it.

If you like chicken, I can imagine this being a nice bite, 110 calories each, so a nice little snack with some protein.
Bacon & Egg "Fried Rice".
"The rice isn't actually fried, but it is chock full of chopped bacon, scrambled egg and veggies."

Next I went for the bacon one.  I like bacon, so of all the savory varieties, this is really the only one that I had any hope for.  Although, I was still skeptical I'd like a rice ball ...

Inside the ball was chopped cubes of carrots, peas, corn, and scallions.  You could see the love that goes into these in how the sizes of all the vegetables were the same.  They were well distributed throughout.  The bacon chunks and egg chunks were also the same size.

The brown rice was mixed with some sticky rice too, plus rice wine vinegar.

But ... it was still a rice ball.  I just don't like rice, particularly brown rice.  The veggies were well cooked, and I did enjoy the pops of flavor from the bacon, but, overall, this just wasn't for me.

I added soy sauce which made it better, but, I'm not sure what it would take for me to really like a rice ball.

"Veggie"

The four vegetarian options are all also vegan, and I tried them all.
Roasted Corn and Poblano  (vegan).
"Flame-roasted poblano peppers and toasted corn make for a surprisingly sweet, mellow flavor combination!  Tied together with sautéed red onion, pureed organic Yukon Gold potatoes and a hint of ground cumin." 

This was actually a pretty simple flavor compared to others in terms of the length of the ingredient list.  Besides the aforementioned poblanos, corn, red onion, and potatoes, there really was nothing else besides rice wine vinegar, salt, and cumin. 

It did have some good flavor, not due to the poblano as I expected, but actually from the roasted corn.  It was super flavorful, fresh, and surprisingly crisp.  I really liked the flavor of the corn.  I also found cubes of potatoes inside, although the description said the potato was pureed.  They were soft and tender, but very bland, since they were just potato.

I still wanted a sauce or something, because even with the corn and poblanos, it was fairly plain tasting on its own.  But with a good sauce, this could be a winner?
Kale & Kimchee (vegan)
"Bunches and bunches of fresh kale are finely chopped (turns our fingers green!).  Then we carefully hand-chop our own home-made vegan kimchee for awesome flavor with a little crunch.  (Instead of dried fish or shrimp, we achieve that funky, authentic kimchee flavor from fresh daikon.) "

I don't really like the flavor of kimchee, so, this was definitely not for me.  I tried a bite, but, it was just a cube of mushy rice with a flavor I really, really didn't care for.
Shiitake (vegan).
"First we simmer a super flavorful shiitake broth and let it steep overnight to develop the flavors.  Then we add Haiga rice and cook it directly in the shiitake broth.  Fresh ginger adds a little extra background note to this vegan favorite."

I did like the bits of shiitake in this one, nicely flavored with sake, mirin, and soy sauce.  But they were tiny and there were not many.  It was mostly just rice.  I didn't pick up on the promised flavors in the rice from the cooking method, it was fairly plain.

Not a big fan, well, since it was mostly just rice.  With more mushroom, it has potential though.
Coconut Red Lentil.
"A satisfying combination of red lentils and coconut milk simmered with onion and ginger.  Toasted yellow split peas add extra texture and protein.  Not exactly spicy but there is a little kick from the green chile. "

I saved this for last, since I did not expect to like it.  I dislike lentils even more than I dislike beans.

Like the Jamaican Jerk Chicken the rice was cooked in coconut milk, so it was a different texture than the others.  In this case though, it really just seemed like a pile of mush.  I didn't care for it.  I understand where Ojan was coming from in this aspect.

I was confused when I saw the insides of this ball.  I saw nothing red, instead there were little yellow things.  I thought this was red lentil?  Hmm, maybe they subbed in other lentils?  Then I tasted it.  I tasted the unmistakable taste of split peas.  I loath split peas, far more than beans and lentils.  So then I read the ingredients list ... yes, those were yellow split peas.  Blegh.  And where were those lentils anyway?  I never found any, nor did I pick up on the any green chile also mentioned.

Hands down my least favorite.

"Sweetie"

And finally, the category I was eying the most, the sweeter ones, all vegetarian.  Two are plays on peanut butter and jelly, and the final, rice pudding.  Yes, dessert!
Rice Pudding.
"A classic recipe made from Haiga rice simmered in organic milk with cinnamon and raisins.  The only difference?  You can eat this one without a spoon and we like it less sweet than traditional versions."

To say that I was most looking forward to this one is an understatement.  If I could pick only one Scooter to try, it was clearly going to be this one. As I've mentioned several times, I tend to dislike rice ... unless it is rice pudding.  I adore rice pudding.

I eagerly took my first bite.  Cinnamon.  So much cinnamon.  Way too much cinnamon.  Woah.  I honestly can't imagine this is how they all are.  I'd like to try another batch, as this was just so out of balance, it had to be a mistake.

The rice is a mix of the haiga rice that all the Scooters use, plus some sweet white rice too.  There is a little bit of milk and sugar in here to sweeten it, but it is still a ball of rice, so it isn't creamy like actual rice pudding.  There were plenty of nice plump raisins.

I didn't like this, partially because there was just way too much cinnamon, and partially because it just wasn't at all what I wanted it to be.  A cold rice ball with rice pudding spicing is nothing like my precious bowl of creamy rice pudding.

I tried to salvage it by adding milk, mixing it up, and heating it.  I was trying to create a creamy, warm rice pudding, and trying to reduce the cinnamon overload.  It still just wasn't for me.

I'd like to try another to see if it too is crazy cinnamon-y?
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