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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!"

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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.

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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...