In July, we posed a question to our Facebook Fans: What's your ultimate comfort food? Mashed potatoes ranked No. 2, just behind mac and cheese. While this might not seem surprising, what intrigued me was that mashed potatoes rocked the vote in the height of summer, when they seem like such an un-summery food, and one that I make just twice a year.

This got me thinking about a deep personal flaw of mine, which is the tendency to pigeonhole mashed potatoes as a winter-holiday side. Tomfoolery! As our Facebook fans attest, mashed potatoes can and should be eaten with everything, in any season, and sometimes as a meal in and of themselves.

So I made a resolution: Eat more mashed potatoes. And learn a few ways to sexy them up.

This made a great excuse for me to loiter in our Test Kitchen, where I can pepper our expert cooks with questions as they test and develop recipes. (It's a cherished part of my job; I learn a lot, and sometimes they feed me some very tasty scraps.) I was unprepared for the outpouring of ideas:

  • Use buttermilk instead of regular milk.
  • Add herbs -- thyme and rosemary work well.
  • Mash boiled turnips with regular potatoes.
  • Mix in blue cheese for a flavor punch.
  • Roast cauliflower, and mash that instead of potatoes.
  • Mix in shredded cheese: we like gouda, goat, manchego, and fontina.
  • Swirl in boiled, mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Add a head of roasted garlic (wrap garlic in foil; bake at 400 degrees for an hour; mash).

So what's your favorite way to mix things up?