Too often, the Thanksgiving meal seems like an old record that keeps repeating year after year.

Almost everyone expects to see a big, well-browned bird and gravy at the center of the table and that's just where they should be. (See Pages F8 and F10 for basic gravy and turkey recipes.) And the sideboard should groan under the weight of the many side dishes, sauces and breads that are as symbolic of the holiday as the turkey. But does that mean that every year the meal has to be a carbon copy of the last?

In that spirit, we offer two menus, one traditional and one a bit more adventurous. Pick and choose from the two, even adding just one new dish to the meal, or use them as jumping-off points for your own creations. And as for dessert, buy a nice pie.

Menu I/Tradition

Sausage and Apple Bread Stuffing

(Makes 14 to 16 cups)

The apple and sausage not only add flavor but also keep the stuffing moist in this recipe adapted from the newest "Joy of Cooking" by Irma S. Rombauer et al. (Scribner, 1997).

Do-ahead tips: Toast the bread, cook the celery-onion mixture and the sausage and apples, and combine the spices.

1 pound firm white sandwich, French or Italian bread, including crusts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (10 cups lightly packed bread cubes)

2 ounces ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus additional for the baking dish

2 cups chopped onions

2 cups finely chopped celery

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

1 teaspoon dried sage, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh

1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon minced fresh

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated or ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 pound sweet sausage, casings removed (if present)

4 cups diced, peeled green apples, such as Granny Smith

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup chicken stock or broth, plus additional as needed

A few tablespoons drippings from the roasted turkey (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a large, shallow baking dish that will hold all the stuffing.

Spread the bread cubes on a large rimmed baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, sage, thyme, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.

Line a plate with paper towels and set aside. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, breaking up the meat with a slotted spoon as it cooks. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage pieces to the paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the skillet. Return the skillet to the stove. Add the apples and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until tender.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, stir together the apples, sausage, celery-onion mixture and toasted bread cubes; toss until well combined. Stir in the eggs and chicken stock or broth. Combine well and then transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Moisten the top of the stuffing with a few tablespoons of chicken stock or broth or with drippings from the turkey. Bake until the top forms a crust and the stuffing is cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes.

Per serving (based on 10): 390 calories, 11 gm protein, 36 gm carbohydrates, 21 gm fat, 83 mg cholesterol, 9 gm saturated fat, 695 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber

Classic Mashed Potatoes

(8 to 10 servings)

The secret to fluffy mashed potatoes is the method used to mash them. Invest in a food mill or potato ricer and your potatoes will never be lumpy again.

Do-ahead tip: The potatoes can be peeled, cut into chunks, covered in cold water, and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.

5 pounds baking (russet) potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters or eighths (depending on the size of the potatoes)

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup milk, plus additional as needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Place the potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water over high heat. The water should cover the potatoes by at least 2 inches. Bring to a boil. A covered pot will allow the water to heat more quickly. Boil the potatoes until tender. To test, put a fork into the thickest pieces; it should go through easily. Remove the pot from the heat, drain the potatoes and immediately place the butter and 1 cup of the milk in the now-empty hot pot. Using a potato ricer or a food mill, rice the potatoes directly over the milk-butter mixture. Add the salt and pepper to taste and use a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly. Mix in the heavy cream and additional milk if necessary. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a serving dish and serve immediately or cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Per serving (based on 10): 301 calories, 6 gm protein, 42 gm carbohydrates, 13 gm fat, 38 mg cholesterol, 8 gm saturated fat, 87 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Apple Cider-Glazed Baby Carrots

(8 to 10 servings)

Glazed carrots are always a hit at any meal. And this version is one of my favorites. The carrots come out perfectly cooked with a slightly sweet, slightly apple glaze. The same method can be used with chunks of butternut squash, parsnips or any root vegetable.

Do-ahead tip: Combine the cider, sugar and seasonings. Keep warm until ready to use.

1 1/2 cups apple cider

3 tablespoons sugar

Salt, white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg to taste

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter

3 pounds baby-cut carrots

In a small pot over medium heat, combine the cider, sugar and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Heat until warm.

In a saute pan large enough to hold all of the carrots comfortably, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and toss to coat. Add the apple-cider mixture, increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove the cover and increase the heat to high. Cook until the liquid has reduced to a glazelike consistency, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and stir to coat the carrots evenly with the glaze.

Per serving (based on 10): 80 calories, 1 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrates, 1 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 71 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Peas in Lemon-Chive Butter Sauce

(8 servings)

Peas are one of the few frozen vegetables that I use regularly. Frozen peas are actually better than most of the fresh peas we can buy because the sugar in fresh peas converts to starch quickly after the pods are picked. By the time fresh pea pods make it to market and then home to be cooked, the peas are starchy. Choose baby or petite peas over regular ones--the smaller peas are sweeter.

Do-ahead tip: Have the lemon juice squeezed, the butter cubes refrigerated and everything measured.

2 pounds frozen petite peas

1/4 cup white wine

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and refrigerated

1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Salt and white pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped chives

Cook the peas according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a small pot, combine the wine and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid is reduced to a light syrupy consistency. Reduce the heat to low. Start adding the butter 1 or 2 cubes at a time, whisking until the cubes have melted and are incorporated into the sauce before adding more butter. Repeat until all of the butter has been incorporated into the sauce. Increase the heat to medium and add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the chives.

Drain the peas. Pour the sauce over the peas, toss to combine and transfer to a serving dish.

Per serving (based on 8): 230 calories, 7 gm protein, 16 gm carbohydrates, 16 gm fat, 43 mg cholesterol, 9 gm saturated fat, 168 mg sodium, 5 gm dietary fiber

Orange-Scented Cranberry Sauce

(8 to 10 servings)

Cranberry sauce is so easy to make that there is no excuse to buy canned versions. This simple sauce is a perfect example.

Do-ahead tip: The sauce is best made and refrigerated for at least 24 hours before using. Let the sauce come to room temperature before serving.

12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over

1 cup orange juice

Zest of 1 orange

1 cup brown sugar

Pinch salt

In a 3-quart pot, combine all of the ingredients. Cook over medium-high heat until all the cranberries pop and the sauce thickens, about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat. Cool and refrigerate.

Per serving (based on 10): 81 calories, trace protein, 21 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 29 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Menu II/Innovation

Corn Pudding Studded With Ham and Scallions

(8 servings)

Call it pudding, call it spoon bread or call it an American version of souffle--the name really doesn't matter. This dish is keeper.

Do-ahead tips: Saute the scallions and ham. The cornmeal and egg-based mixture can be made 30 to 45 minutes before baking and covered with plastic wrap to keep a skin from forming.

Flour for dusting the pan

3 1/2 tablespoons softened butter, plus additional for the pan

1/3 cup chopped scallions, white and tender green parts

4 ounces lean ham, preferably low-sodium, roughly chopped

2 cups milk

1 cup cornmeal

2 tablespoons sugar

Salt to taste

Hot red pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste

5 egg yolks

6 egg whites

Pinch cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-cup baking dish (at least 3 inches deep). Dust the bottom and sides of the dish with flour.

In a small saute pan over medium-high heat, melt 1/2 tablespoon of the butter. Add the scallions and cook until they start to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ham, toss to combine and remove the pan from the heat. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk just until it starts to boil, then gradually whisk in the cornmeal. The mixture should thicken immediately. If it does not thicken, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, until it does. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the sugar, salt, hot sauce to taste and the remaining 3 tablespoons of the butter. The mixture will be very thick. Quickly stir in the egg yolks, 1 at a time. Add the scallion-ham mixture, stir to combine and set aside.

In a standing mixer or using a hand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar; beat until the egg whites become glossy and hold a firm peak when the beater is lifted.

Add 1/3 of the egg whites to the cornmeal mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until well blended. Scrape the remaining beaten egg whites onto the top of the mixture. Using a rubber spatula, cut into the middle of the mixture, reaching down to the bottom of the bowl. Sweep the mixture up from the bottom, out to the sides, then onto the top of the mixture. Rotate the bowl and repeat until just blended.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the pudding has puffed up and the top of the crown is nicely browned. Serve immediately.

Per serving (based on 8): 231 calories, 11 gm protein, 20 gm carbohydrates, 12 gm fat, 163 mg cholesterol, 6 gm saturated fat, 250 mg sodium, 1 gm dietary fiber

Ragout of Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Maple Syrup

(8 to 10 servings)

The key here is to buy sweet potatoes that are all the same variety. Supermarkets sometimes mix different types together in the same display. Since different varieties cook at different rates, this can be a nuisance. Color is the clue--choose potatoes that are all the same tone.

Do-ahead tip: Not much here, but the dish can sit for 30 minutes before serving. Keep covered and warm.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup chicken stock or broth

3/4 cup apple cider

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch ground allspice

Freshly grated nutmeg to taste

Salt and white pepper to taste

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks

4 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks

In a 5-quart pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chicken stock or broth, apple cider, maple syrup, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until combined. Add the sweet potato and apple chunks. Stir to coat the sweet potatoes and apples with the liquid. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low to keep the liquid at a slow simmer. Cook until the sweet potato chunks are tender, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sweet potato and apple chunks to a serving dish. Increase the heat to high and boil the cooking liquid until it has reduced by half. Pour the syrup over the sweet potato and apple chunks and serve.

Per serving (based on 10): 284 calories, 3 gm protein, 57 gm carbohydrates, 5 gm fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 3 gm saturated fat, 84 mg sodium, 2 gm dietary fiber

Warm Green and Yellow Squash Salad With Cranberry Vinaigrette

(8 to 10 servings)

This recipe combines hot, steamed squash with a slightly sweet vinaigrette for a warm salad. The squash is cooked on the stove, keeping the oven free for other dishes.

Do-ahead tips: The squash can be sliced, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated ahead of time. The dressing also can be made hours in advance, then whisked together again before adding to the squash.

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

3 tablespoons cranberry juice

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Salt and white pepper to taste

2/3 cup olive oil

3/4 cup chopped dried cranberries

1 1/2 pounds medium-size zucchini

1 1/2 pounds medium-size yellow squash

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, cranberry juice, honey and salt and white pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in the oil until it is incorporated into the vinaigrette. Add the dried cranberries and stir to combine. Set aside.

Cut each zucchini and yellow squash in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to remove the seedy core from each half. Slice each half into 1/4-inch-thick half-moon slices. The slices can be steamed in a microwave, steamer or large wok. If using a wok, set it over medium-high heat. Add the squash and pour in about 1/2 cup water. Cover the wok and let the squash steam, stirring every 3 or 4 minutes, until the slices are just cooked through. The white flesh will start to look opaque and the slices will start to wilt. Be careful not to overcook. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the dressing gradually to the squash--just enough to keep the salad moist--and toss to combine. (You probably will not need all the dressing.) Set aside for 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.

Per serving (based on 10): 164 calories, 3 gm protein, 16 gm carbohydrates, 11 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 gm saturated fat, 24 mg sodium, 3 gm dietary fiber

Roasted Asparagus and Portobello Mushroom Spears

(8 servings)

If you're looking for easy, this is it. Simply coat the vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, into the oven and that's it. Just toss the mushrooms and asparagus together and serve.

Do-ahead tip: Everything but the roasting. Have the pans of vegetables ready to go into the oven.

3 pounds asparagus, tough stem ends trimmed

1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms, stems removed and sliced into spears the same thickness as the asparagus

1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lay the asparagus spears and the portobello mushrooms slices in a single layer on rimmed baking sheets. Brush with the oil, making sure to brush both sides of the mushroom slices. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Roast the vegetables until tender, 12 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the asparagus spears. Transfer both to a large serving dish and serve immediately.

Per serving (based on 8): 74 calories, 5 gm protein, 6 gm carbohydrates, 4 gm fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 65 mg sodium, 5 gm dietary fiber

Cranberry, Orange and Ginger Chutney

(Makes about 5 cups)

This chutney, adapted from "Well Preserved" by Mary Anne Dragan (Whitecap Books, 1998), goes equally well with ham.

Do-ahead tip: The whole recipe.

1 orange, unpeeled

4 cups cranberries, rinsed and picked over

1/2 cup finely chopped onions

2/3 cup cider vinegar

2/3 cup orange juice

1/4 cup water

2 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup diced crystallized ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Slice the orange very thinly; discard ends and seeds. Chop the slices very finely.

In a large pot over medium heat, combine the orange with the remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring often, until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat to cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Per serving (based on 10): 167 calories, 1 gm protein, 45 gm carbohydrates, trace fat, 0 mg cholesterol, trace saturated fat, 24 mg sodium, 4 gm dietary fiber