The Secret to Great Food at Home

I have a confession: I wasn’t always a great home cook.

In fact, I was awful at it. While I was a baker from an early age, the skills didn’t seem to translate into making actual meals. When I first moved out on my own, I was eating to survive. I subsisted on meals like frozen chicken fingers with frozen vegetable medley, or pasta noodles served with a store-bought jar of sauce.

When I tried to cook, I looked up recipes for my favourite restaurant dishes, like chicken fried rice or rotini with cream sauce. However, all of these meals fell flat.

When I first moved out on my own, I was eating to survive. I subsisted on meals like frozen chicken fingers with frozen vegetable medley, or pasta noodles served with a store-bought jar of sauce. When I tried to cook, I looked up recipes for my favourite restaurant dishes, like chicken fried rice or rotini with cream sauce. However, all of these meals fell flat.

I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

All that changed when I met Beans and we started cooking together. We regularly made these mind-blowing meals with simple ingredients.

The secret to our success?  This book.

Yes, a cookbook can change your life. Or, at least, your eating habits.

Beans bought this cookbook on a whim one day while shopping at BMV on Bloor Street. The first thing he made me from this book was Spicy Ground Beef with Hummus (read about this revelatory experience here). This recipe was so amazing we began to pour through the book and pick all our favourites: Ravioli with White Wine Sauce, North African Chicken with Roasted Veggies, Garlic Lime Steak with Avocado Salsa, Hummus Meatballs with Homemade Tzatziki Sauce.

Before I met Beans I would source recipes from places like Allrecipes.com (the rotini with cream sauce) or the backs of food packages (the fried rice). If the recipe had an ingredient I wasn’t sure about or didn’t have, I would substitute it. If the instructions seemed too hard or finicky, I would try something simpler.

Why did I have the confidence to be so cavalier with new recipes? I didn’t know the secret to success for new cooks:

Find great recipes.

Follow them closely.

Rule 1: Find Great Recipes

While the internet is great for food ideas, but there’s something to be said for a physical book with a collection of well-designed and tested recipes. Sites like Allrecipes.com are crowd sourced and so you get a real mixed bag in terms of quality. High Flavor Low Labor is written by JM Hirsch, the national food editor for the Associated Press. This guy knows food and he delivers quality recipes.

Hard to find great recipes in books that have totally blank covers but hey she’s persevering

Rule 2: Follow the Recipe Closely… at least at first

The first time you make something, trust the recipe author, and follow it closely. Especially if you’re a newb with a bad track record like I was – until you know what you’re doing, you don’t realize how much the changes can throw off the flavour balance of the recipe.

And here’s the thing, once you’ve tried a recipe, you can start to make modifications. Beans and I have created our own versions of almost everything we make from this book, and we will be sharing these modified recipes on this site.

Stock footage of Grains and Beans making dinner ha ha just kidding our kitchen is a mess

For me, High Flavor Low Labor was the key that unlocked home cooking. It really delivered on the promise: the recipes are easy but delicious and flavourful. It’s perfect for those of us cooking with time constraints. If you’re trying to get into cooking at home, do yourself a favour: pick up a copy of this book and start cracking.

Welcome to Grains and Beans

What is Grains and Beans, you ask? Why did Beans, a Personal Finance Coach, and me, Grains, a Pharmacist-turned-Med Student decide to jump into the wild world of food and lifestyle blogging? The answer is simple: we love good food.

When Grains Met Beans

When Beans and I met we came together over our love of good food. I remember the first time he cooked for me: he made Spicy Ground Beef and Hummus from High Flavor Low Labor by JM Hirsch (more on this life changing book here.)

We sopped up the savoury sauce with chunks of fresh pita, leaning over the kitchen counter in his basement apartment and I was hooked. I hadn’t realized cooking could be this easy and tasty at the same time.

Grains and Beans. Bowls with seeds and nuts.

What started out as a love of food has become something bigger: it’s a way of living well. It’s a way of saving money. It’s a way of improving health, but also experiencing pleasure and joy in small daily experiences. It’s a way of saving time and improving productivity.

On a regular basis, Beans and I will turn to each other during a meal and say “We’re geniuses!” because we’ve yet again found a fast, cheap, healthy way to eat something we love at home.

And here’s the thing: we want to let you in on the secret. We know you’re busy, we’re busy too. We don’t have time for fancy, complicated recipes. We’ve found recipes and food strategies that actually save time.

This blog isn’t just for sharing kick ass recipes we’ve found or developed along the way. It’s also a place that we can talk about food.

Why is it important to talk about food?

Honestly, I think we should talk about food less. Food, fitness, health in general have become loaded subjects. We talk about them constantly and most of the conversation is completely toxic.

Food is a coded way to talk about a desire to be more thin, more this or more that. It’s a place we can rest our deepest anxieties, instead of facing them head on.

Rather than dealing with our deepest wounds and insecurities, we can just go on the keto diet.

So, let’s change the conversation. Let’s talk about all the ways that food can bring joy to life, and along the way unpack some of the lies we’ve been sold by the diet industry.


Welcome to Grains and Beans.

Here you’ll find a collection of our favourite recipes. You’ll also find tips for saving money on food, for eating to improve your health (if that’s what you’re after) and you’ll find our take on the current happenings in the food world – the pros and cons of Uber Eats, one health professional’s take on the latest diet trends, and more.