Trisha Yearwood has made a second career out of her down-home expertise in the kitchen, as a respected cookbook author and the host of her own cooking show, 'Trisha's Southern Kitchen,' on Food Network. But she didn't actually start testing her cooking skills until she moved from Georgia to pursue her musical dreams.

"Dinner was at my grandparents' house with aunts, uncles and cousins," Yearwood tells USA Weekend of Thanksgiving as a child. "We ate early after church; then the grownups would sit around the table talking. The point of eating early is you can eat twice!

"It wasn't until I was 20 and moved to Nashville that I started to cook though. I was homesick and missed Mama's cooking, so I learned to make her cornbread dressing," she adds. "That's what made me love cooking: easy recipes that tasted like home."

Now, Yearwood fixes many of those recipes each Thanksgiving for her husband Garth Brooks and their family, and she says that though they've added a dish or two to the menu over the years, there is "one constant" -- her mom's cornbread dressing.

Yearwood's mom Gwen, who passed away in October 2011, was the singer's main inspiration in the kitchen and even helped co-write two of her cookbooks, 'Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen: Recipes From My Family to Yours,' released in 2008, and 'Home Cooking With Trisha Yearwood: Stories and Recipes to Share With Family and Friends,' which was published in 2010.

"It's important to preserve those family recipes ... When I make that dressing, I feel connected to her," Yearwood says. "Food and memories are how we keep the people we have loved at the table with us."

And in case you're wondering, Yearwood's turkey recipe has been certified by Brooks.

"The first year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner in Oklahoma," she recalls, "Garth had me cook a stunt turkey before the big day so he could taste-test it!"