When you open a bag of Cheetos, you never intend to eat the whole thing. However, once you start searching for the big fat ones, finding one after another, before you know it, you're left with an almost empty bag of snacks with skinny little sticks hangin' out at the bottom and fingertips full of orange crud that leaves it's mark even after you wash it off. It's like they dye the Cheetos just so they can pick out who their most devoted consumers are. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating now, but I think you get my point.
Once you start looking at the ingredients and the dyes, you question whether it was such a good idea to even eat one, much less the whole bag. This is an adaptation of a recipe for homemade, healthier, baked Cheetos from Maria's Nutritious & Delicious Journal! Obviously they don't taste exactly like the real thing, but they are still yummy, not to mention pretty fun to make! We really like the Jalapeno Cheetos so I used pepper jack cheese and threw in some of this homemade jalapeno hot sauce. Have fun and experiment with your own flavors. Let me know if you find one you really like!
1 cup freshly grated pepper jack cheese, frozen (may use cheddar or any other kind)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
6 egg whites
1 tsp. hot sauce, optional
Parmesan cheese, optional
After grating your cheese, be sure to put it it the freezer until frozen. (If it's not frozen it will mash together and be hard to mix into the batter.) Once cheese is frozen, put it in the food processor and grate until it shreds into tiny little pieces.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites, hot sauce, and cream of tartar together until it forms very stiff peaks.
Carefully fold in the cheese until thoroughly mixed.
Gently transfer to a large Ziploc bag and snip a hole in the corner. Carefully pipe Cheeto-like lines on a parchment lined cookie sheet. (If you don't have parchment paper, lightly grease the pan.)
If you are using Parmesan cheese, now is when you'll want to lightly sprinkle each puff.
Bake at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes. Bake as long as you can without burning them. The longer they bake, the crispier they will get. You can also turn the oven off when they are done and leave them in there for about 30 minutes.
Let cool completely and store in an airtight container. (I think they taste even better the next day after they really cool down and dry out. They get more flavorful and crispier.)