Brined Turkey & Mashed Potatoes

So, after Thanksgiving last year, my mom gave me an extra turkey she had lying around (naturally), and thought it might be a good opportunity for me to try my hand at cooking it. I thought it was a great idea.

Then 11 months went by.

There aren’t too many chances to cook a turkey. Ideally, I’d want a free weekend, with people to help me eat it, but not too many people so there’s not a ton of pressure to cook it perfectly.

Well, I found that free weekend, nearly 1 year later. Knowing we were going to be renovating our kitchen soon, I wanted to clear our freezer space, and get this turkey cooked. Michael was actually out of town on a hunting trip with the men in his family, and my brother was busy, and our other friends were busy too. It was a pretty depressing & lonely (but delicious) scene at the end. It was great, though, because it allowed me to make mistakes without being under pressure.

Really, better than reading this blog entry about brining a turkey, you should just watch these videos by Alton Brown. I used his “Good Eats Roast Turkey” recipe, which, after 3,538 reviews on the Food Network, has a 5-star rating. It’s the top recipe (of all recipes) on the Food Network for 6 years running. When heard that, I was sold.

Turkey Tips Part 1:

Turkey Tips Part 2:

Good info on the science of brining & how it makes your turkey so moist (yes, Biz, I said moist):

OK, first of all, my turkey was frozen solid (for at least a year and a half), and I also waited until Friday to decide to cook the turkey that weekend. So, instead of doing a fridge thaw like Alton Brown mentions, I did the water thaw. I immersed the turkey in a bucket of water (wrapper still on), overnight. I weighted down the turkey by propping a bottle of wine on it. Sounds weird, but it worked. Sorry, no picture.

I let it sit in the bucket over Friday night, and then prepared the turkey & brine Saturday evening. First, I removed the turkey neck (sorry I couldn’t give you a nice, crystal clear picture of the turkey neck; Michael was still out of town & had our monster camera):

Then I removed any other loose parts that seemed kind of detached from the inside:

Note: leave the metal thingy that holds the legs together. I tried to rip mine out; it’s impossible. Furthermore (and I guess most importantly), it’s supposed to stay in there. It holds the turkey’s legs together, very ladylike. You can take the legs out of the metal thingy when you put the aromatics inside the turkey (later).

Turkey, ready for a swim in some brine:

Then, make the brine in a large stock pot. Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger [if you actually found that in the store, unlike me] in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir every once in a while to make sure solids get fully dissolved and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate [I didn’t because I didn’t have enough time].

Dump the brine in a 5-gallon bucket. I don’t think mine was quite 5 gallons.  Add the water and ice (not added in this picture). I couldn’t add a lot of ice since the bucket would overflow. It didn’t seem to make a difference in the outcome.

I do realize this picture looks really gross.

Then put the thawed turkey, breast side down, in the brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining [I didn’t turn it and I think it was fine].

During this time, I made Pioneer Woman’s creamy mashed potatoes. I’ve made this before, and it’s awesome. I had some red potatoes on hand this time, so I used those, and left the skin on. I also didn’t have 5 lb of potatoes (what the recipes calls for). I think I had only 3 lb. I didn’t adjust any of the other ingredients, and they still turned out … perfect. Amazing. Definitely not low-fat. Sometimes I like extra creamy potatoes, so I’ll put them in the Kitchen Aid mixer, but this time I just used my manual potato masher. M likes his potatoes a bit chunky.

Turkey/brine & potatoes all tucked in for the night.

The next morning, I prepared the aromatics. I combined the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a small dish and microwaved it 5 minutes.

Then I unhooked the turkey legs from the metal thingies and added the aromatics to the turkey’s insides, along with the rosemary and sage. Then I gave the turkey a nice rub-down with canola oil. Don’t use too much. I think I did, and it caused the oil in the bottom of the pan to get really hot when it was in the oven. This caused a big cloud of black smoke to fill the kitchen when I opened the oven door. Dramatic, exciting, but not worth it. Go easy on the oil.

Then I got the foil shield ready, like Alton suggests in the Turkey Tips Part 1 video.

Fitting the shield over the bird… but it doesn’t feel right.

… that’s because mr. turkey was upside down. Close call.

Turkey, fitted with his shield:


Then remove the shield for the first 30 min of roasting; the shield will be added after the first 30 min (when the oven temp is lowered).

After 30 min at 500 degrees, add the shield:

Then roast until 161 degrees. Alton’s recipe says this takes about 90 more minutes. Mine took less; maybe 75 minutes, and even then, it was 168 degrees when I took it out. I roasted a bit too long because I was dropping off a loaf of pumpkin bread at a close friend’s 🙂

… but, it was perfect.

Finished turkey. Aaron Rogers approves.

Alton Brown’s Good Eats Brined Turkey + Pioneer Woman’s Creamy Mashed Potatoes + Steamfresh green beans (Steamfresh shout out!).

The turkey was amazing. I couldn’t believe it was the same turkey that had been frozen for over a year and a half. It was juicy & full of flavor. Plus, it only takes 2 hours to roast! In addition to the brining, I think roasting the turkey at 500 for the first 30 minutes does a nice job of sealing in the juices.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re able to enjoy your Thanksgiving surrounded by loving friends and family… and a juicy turkey.


(link to recipe)

  • 1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey

For the brine:

  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 gallon vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons allspice berries
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped candied ginger [I couldn’t find this, so I left it out]
  • 1 gallon heavily iced water

For the aromatics:

  • 1 red apple, sliced
  • 1/2 onion, sliced [I didn’t use this]
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 sprigs rosemary
  • 6 leaves sage
  • Canola oil


2-3 days before roasting, begin thawing the turkey in the refrigerator or in a cooler kept at 38 degrees F. [I used the thaw-in-water method.]

Combine the vegetable stock, salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, and candied ginger in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally to dissolve solids and bring to a boil. Then remove the brine from the heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate.

Early on the day or the night before you’d like to eat:

Combine the brine, water and ice in the 5-gallon bucket. Place the thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. If necessary, weigh down the bird to ensure it is fully immersed, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area for 8 to 16 hours, turning the bird once half way through brining [I didn’t turn it and I think it turned out fine].

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Remove the bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard the brine.

Place the bird on roasting rack inside a half sheet pan [or roasting pan] and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Add steeped aromatics to the turkey’s cavity along with the rosemary and sage. Tuck the wings underneath the bird and coat the skin liberally with canola oil.

Roast the turkey on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F for 30 minutes. Insert a probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Set the thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees F. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let the turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for 15 minutes before carving.

pioneer woman’s creamy mashed potatoes

(link to recipe)


  • 5 pounds Russet Or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • ¾ cups Butter
  • 1 package (8 Oz.) Cream Cheese, Softened
  • ½ cups (to 3/4 Cups) Half-and-Half
  • ½ teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • ½ teaspoons (to 1 Teaspoon) Black Pepper

Preparation Instructions

Peel and cut the potatoes into pieces that are generally the same size. Bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the potatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 30 to 35 minutes. When they’re cooked through, the fork should easily slide into the potatoes with no resistance, and the potatoes should almost, but not totally, fall apart.

Drain the potatoes in a large colander. When the potatoes have finished draining, place them back into the dry pot and put the pot on the stove. Mash the potatoes over low heat, allowing all the steam to escape, before adding in all the other ingredients.

Turn off the stove and add 1 ½ sticks of butter, an 8-ounce package of cream cheese and about ½ cup of half-and-half. Mash, mash, mash! Next, add about ½ teaspoon of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt and ½ a teaspoon of black pepper.

Stir well and place in a medium-sized baking dish. Throw a few pats of butter over the top of the potatoes and place them in a 350-degree oven and heat until butter is melted and potatoes are warmed through.

Note: When making this dish a day or two in advance, take it out of the fridge about 2 to 3 hours before serving time. Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 20 to 30 minutes or until warmed through.


Boy Barto or Girl Barto?

I had my 18 week appointment today!  It went very well. Baby Barto is healthy & still has a strong heartbeat (I recorded it & will probably post later). I’m measuring on track at this point.

I scheduled my next (and possibly final) ultrasound for week 20. If the baby is cooperative, we’ll be able to find out the gender!  The appointment is scheduled for the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Do you think we’re hving a girl or a boy?

Cream Cheese Rippled Pumpkin Bread

I can’t let autumn pass without making something with pumpkin… one of my favorite things about fall is the abundance of baked goods with pumpkin in them!

{ a note about the photography: my hunting husband brought the serious camera him on his trip; the iPhone has stepped up to the plate for a while. }

These were really easy to make (recipe yields two loaves). First, make the cream cheese filling; the pumpkin bread will come later. { Recipe at the end of post. }

Beat the room temperature cream cheese until smooth in a stand mixer or food processor. Add the sugar and mix just until smooth and creamy. Add the (room temp) eggs, one at a time, mixing until just until incorporated. Do not over-mix. Stir in the flour & set aside.

Sorry, no pics. Trust me, it wasn’t that exciting.

Now for the pumpkin bread part … much more exciting.

Sift the flour, baking soda baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a large bowl — but not your largest. You’ll use that later. Grab your second largest bowl.

This is my new Oxo Good Grips sifter.  I bought it because my old sifter had a mechanism where you had to squeeze the handle repeatedly to sift. When sifting more than a cup of stuff, I would get a hand cramp. This Oxo one is awesome because all I have to do it slightly shake it from side to side. Demonstration:

Boom. Sifted.

OK, now — grab the largest bowl you have. I made the mistake of not doing this. I got over it, but I’d rather you not go through that.

Whisk together the eggs until lightly beaten. Whisk in the sugar. Next, you’ll whisk in the melted butter; but first, make sure it’s at room temperature.  This is important so you don’t cook the eggs. I like to be super careful and add it in reeeally slowly, while vigorously whisking it in.

Then stir in the pumpkin, water, vanilla extract, and (optionally) nuts.

The reason why you need such a big bowl for the pumpkin mixture is because you’ll be adding the flour mixture to it.

Flour mixture & pumpkin mixture:

Mixed. Be careful not to over-mix. Flour streaks are fine.

Divide the batter in half. Take one half and divide it between the two pans. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into each pan…

…then top with the remaining half of batter. I got my rubber spatula, sprayed it with canola, and smoothed out the tops.

Bake 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. I had to bake mine 10 minutes longer; I think this was because I used glass pans.


Cool pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes (and try to restrain yourself from devouring the loaves in handfuls of chunks), then turn out and cool loaves to room temperature.

Cut a thick slice, pour yourself a glass of ice cold milk…. and enjoy.

Then …cut yourself another thick slice, refill your glass… and enjoy again.

{ my iPhone wanted to focus on the wine bottle in the background… which, for the record, was for beef stew last week 🙂 }

Cream Cheese Rippled Pumpkin Bread from Lick the Bowl Good via Joy of Baking via 17 and Baking

Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
 Pumpkin Bread:
  • 1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts (I didn’t do this)
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1– 15 ounce can pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 9″x5″ pans.

For the Cream Cheese Filling: Beat the cream cheese just until smooth in a stand mixer or food processor. Add the sugar and process just until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, processing just until incorporated. Do not over process. Stir in the flour. Set aside.

For the Pumpkin Bread: Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl and set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together the eggs until lightly beaten. Whisk in the sugar and melted butter, then stir in the pumpkin, water, vanilla extract, and (optionally) nuts.

Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, being careful not to overmix. A few streaks of flour are fine. Divide the batter in half. Take one half and divide it between the two pans. Pour half of the cream cheese filling into each pan, then top with the remaining half of batter. Smooth the tops and bake an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out and cool loaves to room temperature.

Makes 2 9″x5″ loaves.

Baby Barto: Week 16

{ my photographer is out of town on a hunting trip in Montana. }

me at week 16: I felt Baby Barto! I was actually helping facilitate an event at work, sitting at the front of the room, and felt the baby. It felt like he was turning over, and then there was a flutter. Really, really, amazing. I wish I more chances to sit still and try to feel her… it’s a comforting feeling and I’m looking forward to feeling more as the weeks progress.

Another milestone this week: I wore my first maternity pants. At this point, most maternity shirts are too large, but I did wear my first one to work during week 15. Around week 13, I started wearing a Bella Band, which allows you to not button your pants & still keep them up. 🙂 It worked really well for about 3 weeks, but this week, I found that it created a lot more bulk than I would like around my waistline. So, I wore my first pair of maternity pants: Gap’s demi panel perfect trouser pants. Why doesn’t everyone wear maternity pants? All they are are normal pants with a big, comfortable elastic waistband instead of a zipper & hook/eye. Why we ever went away from elastic waistbands as a kid is a mystery to me.

Baby Barto at week 16: She is about the size of an avacado, 4 1/2 inches long and weighs 3 1/2 ounces.  He’s starting a huge growth spurt now: in the next few weeks, he will double his weight and add inches to his length. His legs are much more developed, his head is more erect than before and his eyes have moved closer to the front of his head. Her ears are close to their final position, too. The patterning of her scalp has begun, and her heart is now pumping about 25 quarts of blood each day! (Amazing.)

Baby Barto: Week 15

me at week 15: I’ve realized I do have a general craving: pasta. Specifically, spaghetti with marinara sauce. However, I have been known to settle for ramen noodle cups in a pinch.

Nothing much to report at this point. I bought a body pillow ($15, normally $52!) and it’s nice to use as I transition to side sleeping.

I really just feel like a normal person (surprise) who happens to be pregnant. Nothing to complain about! During this week, I am starting to be more vigilent about paying attention to my little tummy; I could feel Baby Barto movements at any time now! I’m looking forward to those movements; I would like to have more frequent validation of my baby’s actual presence in my belly, besides the monthly appointments to hear the heartbeat. Wake up & kick, Baby B! Mommy wants to feel you for the first time.  

Baby Barto at week 15: He is the size of an small-medium apple this week, measuring about 4 inches.  She’s moving amniotic fluid through her nose and upper respiratory tract, which helps the primitive air sacs in her lungs begin to develop. Although her eyelids are still fused shut, she can sense light. If I were to shine a flashlight at my tummy, apparently, she’s likely to move away from the beam.  If an ultrasound were to be done this week, I would maybe be able to find out whether Baby Barto is a he or a she… and so I could stop doing all of this pronoun switching. However, we won’t be finding out the gender until about week 20 (the ultrasound isn’t scheduled yet).

Baby Barto: Week 14

me at week 14: I think it’s safe to say at this point that my nausea & utter exhaustion are gone for the most part. If I don’t eat for more than 5 hours, then I feel queasy, but that’s easy to prevent. Thank you, second trimester! 

However, Baby Barto is putting some pressure on my sciatic nerve, causing some intense pain in my left leg. Luckily, my great discovery this week was therefore very appropo: prenatal yoga. The class is once a week, and only 2 blocks from our home. It takes me just a little over 5 minutes to walk there! This is such an exciting novelty to me, since I need to drive 60 minutes to my workplace everyday. The class is perfect. It gives me exercises that help any pregnancy pain & help prepare for labor.  Most importantly, it gives me an hour to focus on myself and the baby, which can be hard during packed days at work. The women in the class are a great support, as well. It’s extremely refreshing to talk to other women going through the same changes&  trying to make the same decisions. I look forward to my yoga class all week!

Baby Barto at week 14: He is the size of a lemon this week, measuring about 3.5 inches.  This week’s big developments including her ability to squint, frown, grimace, pee & suck her thumb. His kidneys are producing urine, which he releases into the amniotic fluid around him. By the end of this week, her arms will have grown to a length that’s in proportion to the rest of her body (her legs still have some lengthening to do). He’s starting to develop an ultra-fine, downy covering of hair, called lanugo, all over his body. Aaaaand she’s still in the lead as the cutest thing ever created, 14 weeks straight.