Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Tradition plays a big part in that. My family, along with two other families, has played a touch football game Thanksgiving morning for as long as I can remember. Another tradition began during my college years. I grew up down the street from my best friend, and we went to different colleges. The only time I would see him was during Thanksgiving. We both remained at school during the summers. After we were done with Thanksgiving family obligations, we would toast to our reunion. Once we’d worked up an appetite for second dinner, we’d throw all the leftovers from his fridge into a sandwich and chow down. We call it “the Gobbler.”

A little over a year ago I moved to Los Angeles, leaving my family back in Chicago with the cold winters. I left in search of a new adventure. What I didn’t know was that one of my favorite quests of the past year would involve a 22-pound turkey

In early November, I met up with my family in the Florida Keys to celebrate my grandmother’s 80th birthday. That being the case, I didn’t feel the need to return to Chicago a few weeks later for Thanksgiving. I just didn’t have the money, and I had just been with my family. I was going to make a Thanksgiving dinner myself.

My roommate was also planning on staying in LA, and his younger brother was coming out to visit. We decided to invite a couple of other friends over too. My roommate and I went grocery shopping together, but the cooking was all on me. We’d be ordering out if I let him help. Being a Thanksgiving chef n00b, I bought a 22-pound turkey.

Over a two-day period, I managed to throw together enough turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, corn bread stuffing, vegetables, salads, cranberry sauce and pies to feed six people… for three meals. We stuffed ourselves until we couldn’t eat any more, drank more than our fill of wine, then laughed and told stories about previous family Thanksgiving disasters. I was so proud and full of myself for having pulled off such a feast, and I was filled with joy to share my Thanksgiving with great friends.

Alas, this year I’m going back to Chicago for Thanksgiving. I haven’t been home in over a year and I miss it. I do, however, feel like I’m going to miss cooking for Thanksgiving. I know not to mess with my grandma when she’s in the kitchen. Hopefully it won’t be snowing yet, but regardless, I’ll get by on the warm feelings from my first Thanksgiving in LA.

Like me, there are many out there that will be kept from their friends and family on Thanksgiving. Share the warmth of the holiday with them and the rest of your email list with a Benchmark Thanksgiving email template. Share some tasty recipes or even your favorite Thanksgiving memory.

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Southern Cornbread Stuffing (recipe courtesy of Paula Deen via


• Cornbread, recipe follows
• 7 slices oven-dried white bread
• 1 sleeve saltine crackers
• 8 tablespoons butter
• 2 cups celery, chopped
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 7 cups chicken stock
• 1 teaspoon salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon sage (optional)
• 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (optional)
• 5 eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine crumbled cornbread, dried white bread slices, and saltines; set aside. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook until transparent, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Pour the vegetable mixture over cornbread mixture. Add the stock, mix well, taste, and add salt, pepper to taste, sage, and poultry seasoning. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Reserve 2 heaping tablespoons of this mixture for the giblet gravy. Pour mixture into a greased pan and bake until dressing is cooked through, about 45 minutes. Serve with turkey as a side dish.



• 1 cup self-rising cornmeal
• 1/2 cup self-rising flour
• 3/4 cup buttermilk
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into a greased shallow baking dish. Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. To serve, cut into desired squares and serve with butter. Yield: 6 to 8 servings