Beating the winter doldrums with chili spiked whipped root vegetables

February produce in a four-season climate leaves much to be desired. Chances are most of you don't associate joy with the word turnips. Does the thought of parsnips make you wonder if you can live on pasta alone till spring? If the avocados and tomatoes in your supermarket from far away have you thinking about cheating on your attempts to eat more seasonally consider this -chili spiked whipped root vegetables. I promise they're as creamy and comforting as a bowl of regular mashed potatoes, and with a little extra spice they're just the thing to help you get excited about what little we have to work with this time of year.

This dish is made up of a mixture of parsnips, turnips and a potato or two. It could easily be adapted to whatever root vegetables you prefer. If you have never considered cooking a parsnip or a turnip, let this be your gateway dish. After all, when you add butter and sour cream to a vegetable it becomes much more enticing to most skeptics. The chili powder is an idea I borrowed from a mashed potato recipe in the The San Francisco Chronicle cookbook. The recipe suggested the chili was supposed to "chase away the blues" and I figured given my less than cheery disposition (and most people I came across) this past Monday, it was worth a shot. What resulted was a buttery, slightly sweet, red-hued dish that should wake you up from your winter doldrums and make your diners take notice. The spice is gentle enough that this is definitely still comfort food. Turnips and parsnips are slightly lighter than plain old potatoes, and if you take the time to whip them they will produce an almost fluffy puree. (I was able to get a consistency I was content with using a hand-held mixer. If you were serving this for company and were aiming for a perfect puree it might help to pull out the heavier equipment, the stand-mixer or a food processor). The start of Spring is only a month and a half away, but while we still have to brave the cold for a little while longer, do what you need to to keep your spirits up, especially if it involves a whole lot of butter and chili powder.

Chili-Spiked-Whipped-Root-Vegetables Recipe influenced and adapted from two different sources - the James Beard Foundation website and The San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook.

3 medium parsnips, peeled and diced 1 large baking potato, peeled and diced 2 to 3 medium turnips, peeled and diced 1/4-1/2 cup sour cream, or to taste 6 Tablespoons butter, softened 1 Tablespoon chili powder, or more to taste Coarse salt and white pepper to taste Chopped cilantro for garnish

Place the vegetables in a pot with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 to 40 minutes. Drain well.

Place the cooked vegetables in a bowl and whip until mashed (this can be done with a hand-mixer or in a stand mixer). Slowly incorporate the remaining ingredients, then whip at high speed for about one minute to lighten the mixture.

Stir in the chili powder and salt and pepper. Taste, and adjust seasons accordingly. Garnish with cilantro before serving.