New & NowWeeknight Cooking

Play This Game, Plan Your Dinner

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It's easy to be hard on yourself in January: A "new" year (and a newfound desire to exercise) coincides, at least on the East Coast, with the bleakest weather. And there's the urge to cook healthfully and inexpensively but little post-holiday, post-cookie energy to do it.

You're due for a little fun! And if that fun is useful, too, even better. So why not play a game to get weeknight-appropriate meals (that are also landing pads for dregs and leftovers) on the table? We're talking about a dinner-destined version of the word game you loved most from the back of the school bus. Let's just call it "It's _____ For Dinner!"

We came, we played, we pasta'd.
We came, we played, we pasta'd. Photo by James Ransom

Dinner, The Word Game

You can be as silly or resourceful as you'd like. Here's how it works:

  • Download the blank PDFs (either all together or one by one: pasta, chili, fried rice, grain bowl, lentil soup). Print them, if you want.
  • Gather your friends or dining companions, young and old, and some pens.
  • Fill in the blanks with what you have lingering in the kitchen (the last tablespoons of teriyaki sauce; the scallions that deserve a second chance)—or interpret them as a dreaming-off point to inspire a combination you've never cooked before.
  • If you need a (sometimes wacky) idea, use the "Hints & Winks" at the bottom of each PDF.
  • Cook it; eat it; love it—and save the evidence of how you made it forever. (Alternatively, send a copy/photo to someone who loves you and ask that they make it for you. That works, too.)

We Started For You!

Multi-Bean Chili:

Download the blank PDF here to play yourself.

Fried Rice (& Then Some):

Download the blank PDF here to play yourself.

Grain Bowl

Download the blank PDF here to play yourself.

Lentil Soup

Download the blank PDF here to play yourself.

Baked Pasta:

Download the blank PDF here to play yourself.

Show us how you'd fill in the blanks in the comments below, and use the hashtag #cookintheblank wherever you're posting (on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, the bulletin board in you're office). We'll be watching...

Tags: Make Ahead, Meal Plan, Ephemera, Dinner, Faster