Swiss Chard and Brown Rice Rolls

As much as I enjoy preparing and eating food, I just can’t stand shopping for it.

In fact, I like to see how long I can go between grocery runs. Call me strange, but I think it’s a fun challenge to create tasty meals from only a few basic items.

This habit stems from my Peace Corps Africa days when I lived in a desert town with few shopping outlets. My town had a German bakery, a butcher, and two basic stores where I could buy potatoes, rice, pasta, tea, eggs, apples, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, gouda cheese, flour, yogurt, soda, chips, and Cadbury chocolate bars. If I wanted variety, as in mushrooms or cake mix, I had to go to the nearest town 150 km away.

So, I learned to improvise… and after 2 years there, I got really good at making homemade pizza, cakes, and tortillas. The funny thing is that even now years later, to save myself a trip to the store to buy bagels, I’d rather whip up my own batch at home.

This week was one of those weeks I shunned the grocery store. My husband was on a business trip, so I didn’t have to involve another person in my cooking experiments. It was just me and an almost empty fridge.

I poked around online and found a recipe I could work with. Of course, I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I made some substitutions, and it came out DELICIOUS. This recipe is loosely adapted from the Brown Rice and Lentil Roll recipe by Giada de Laurentiis.

Ingredients (Here’s what I had on hand)

Brown rice


Basil leaves from my garden

A little goat cheese and a little Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened

Swiss Chard

Canned tomatoes

A small block of parmesan (almost gone)


1. Mix together the brown rice, lentils, and basil. Then add the softened goat and cream cheese, a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. (Notice there are no measurements given; that’s because it’s improvisation)

2. Cut the swiss chard leaves off the stem and place the leaves in boiling water for 10 seconds. Remove them and pat dry.

3. Put a small amount of the rice mixture onto the swiss chard leaf and roll.

4. Pour a small amount of the canned tomatoes into a baking dish and place the swiss chard rolls on top. Pour the remaining tomatoes over the swiss chard rolls and sprinkle with parmesan.

5. Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

This recipe is very versatile. It could be made kale or spinach leaves. You could throw in garbanzo or kidney beans. It could also be made vegan by leaving out the cheese.

What’s the tastiest meal you’ve concocted from limited food supplies?


2 thoughts on “Swiss Chard and Brown Rice Rolls

  1. I’m impressed. You made good use out of limited supplies and the result looks pretty good. I’m not exactly the best cook in the world so I probably couldn’t improvise something good like that. Although I did make this chicken dish once that turned out pretty good. I just cut up an onion and tomatoes and added some olive oil and threw it all together into the oven. It came out pretty good and I didn’t even follow a recipe. Not too bad for someone who doesn’t know their way around the kitchen.

    • maryrichardson

      That sounds great! I always try to have onion and tomato on hand because they can be used in lots of ways.

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