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Mix savory muffins in many combinations

Blueberry muffins caused me to wax nostalgic for a recent food section column. But carrot corncakes coerced me into the kitchen.

Savory baked goods, after all, are my pick for everyday fare, certainly with soup and stew suppers. And the recipe I published with the column was a real winner, producing the lightest, moistest muffins I can recall ever making. A dollop of goat cheese or mascarpone on top is more enticing for me any day than frosting.

Count on cheese to amalgamate a wide variety of sweet and savory ingredients into a single, harmonious bite. Here are some combinations to consider that could be substituted for the carrots in my corncakes or the mix-ins in your favorite muffin recipe that includes about 2 1/2 cups total dry ingredients.

Southwest: 1/2 cup shredded cheddar + 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels + 1/4 cup diced roasted chiles OR 1 tablespoon chile powder + 2 teaspoons cumin

Italian: 1/2 cup grated Parmesan + 1/2 cup pesto + 3/4 cup pine nuts (sprinkle some cheese on top before baking)

Greek: 1/2 cup crumbled feta + 1 cup thawed frozen chopped spinach + 2 teaspoons dried oregano + 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Classic: 3/4 cup diced ham + 3/4 cup diced Swiss or Emmentaler cheese + 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Gourmet: 1 cup diced brie (with rind removed) + 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

B & B: 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese + 3/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon + 2 teaspoons sage

Sharp cheddar is a staple in my refrigerator and balances the bite of jalapeno in these muffins using canned corn, courtesy of Tribune News Service. Frozen kernels also work wonderfully.

For the cornmeal, you can substitute polenta, semolina or just plain all-purpose flour.

Tribune News Service photo

Jalapeno Canned Corn Muffins

1 cup cornmeal

1 (8.5-ounce) can whole kernel corn

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped finely

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup oil

12 pickled jalapeno rings, optional

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, corn kernels, baking powder, salt and jalapeno pepper with a spatula.

Add the eggs, 3/4 cup of the cheddar cheese, the milk and oil. Combine all ingredients together well.

Divide corn mixture among muffin cups. Top each muffin with some of the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Place one of the pickled jalapenos on top of each muffin, if using.

Bake in preheated oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until a tester inserted into center of muffins comes out clean.

Makes 12 muffins.