One look at the grocery store “snack aisle” will tell you that super-spicy snacks and chips are wildly popular. (Of course if you have a teenager in your house, you already know this!) This recipe offers a nutritious, but just as tasty, alternative. Seasoned with cayenne pepper and red chili pepper hot sauce, the nuts will entice you with a similar degree of heat and a subtle Cheddar cheese flavor.
**Note: White Cheddar popcorn seasoning can be found in the “popcorn” section of most supermarkets. Some people can be sensitive to the heat of hot peppers and their various forms, including red chili pepper hot sauce and cayenne. Use tongs or a big spoon to toss the walnuts with the seasonings, not your bare hands, and work in a well-ventilated kitchen, particularly if you experience any discomfort in the region of your eyes or nose while blending the spicy mixture.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Get out a large, shallow baking pan. For easier clean-up, line the pan with parchment paper if you wish, though this is not essential.
In a small bowl combine the White Cheddar popcorn seasoning, cayenne pepper, paprika, onion powder and garlic powder. Whisk together until thoroughly and evenly blended. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine the oil, red chili pepper hot sauce and water and whisk together until smooth. Add the walnuts and toss until they are glistening and covered with the oil mixture. Continue tossing and stirring as you sprinkle on the cheese mixture and the nuts become coated with the seasonings.
Spread the seasoned walnuts on the baking pan. Bake for 6 minutes, then stir the nuts with a spatula. Bake 6 – 8 minutes longer, until the nuts have browned lightly. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.