A POST-HOLIDAY MEAL Thanksgiving is far more than a single day. It's a long holiday weekend that starts on Wednesday. That's great for houseguests. But for the cook, it means a lot of meals to prepare. Wednesday night is simple: Takeout will do. No one expects a big meal on the night when preparations have begun for the holiday feast. Then Thanksgiving comes and goes. The next day, leftovers provide lunch and maybe even dinner.

By Saturday, it's time for a new start. Everyone wants to get out, shop and explore. Dinner should take a new course as well. Keep it informal but a little elegant and a distinct change from the Pilgrims' feast.

We offer a meal prepared ahead of time to be served in the evening. For the first course, steam greens beans until just tender, then shock them in cold water. Right before serving, top with some cooked shrimp and a liberal amount of lemon vinaigrette; make your own or buy one.

For the main course, try this Golden Gruyere, Spinach and Mushroom Lasagna, a French-style variation on vegetable lasagna. Assemble the lasagna in the morning, refrigerate the prepared dish and then bake it right before serving.

For dessert, keep it simple and serve sliced pineapples and strawberries, easily prepared hours or even the day before and a welcome light ending to both the meal and the weekend.

Stephanie Witt Sedgwick, a former Food section recipe editor, is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. Her Entertaining column appears monthly.