Whether as spicy cocktail snacks or sugared nutcracker sweets at the end of a meal, seasoned nuts add a tasty -- and even elegant -- touch to the holidays.

Nut concoctions also fall into the category of easy, make-at-home food gifts. Plus they have the advantage of shipping well through the traditionally rough-and-tumble holiday mails.

One mailing caveat, however: The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises against sending homemade nut mixtures to troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, as nuts aren't likely to fare well during lengthy shipment to such a hot climate.

For stateside eating, then, choose among the spicy or sweetened nut recipes that follow. But plan on making more than you intend to serve or send. After starting to nibble on a bowl of seasoned nuts, it's hard to stop.

HOT AND SPICY NUTS (Makes 1 1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1 1/2 cups mixed unsalted roasted nuts (a suggested combination: Brazil nuts, cashews, filberts, pecans and walnuts), probably about 9 ounces depending on types of nuts used

1/2 to 1 tablespoon coarse (kosher) salt

Melt the butter in a medium-size saucepan over low heat. Add the Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, ground cumin, celery salt, garlic powder and seasoned salt, stirring well. Simmer over low heat for several minutes to combine flavors.

Add the nuts and stir until evenly coated. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring or shaking occasionally.

Toss the nuts with 1/2 tablespoon of the coarse salt and let cool. Add additional coarse salt to taste, if desired (the nut mixture is meant to be quite salty). Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 239 calories, 5 gm protein, 7 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 6 gm saturated fat, 11 mg cholesterol, 738 mg sodium.

Adapted from "The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook" by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins with Sarah Leah Chase (Workman Publishing, 1985) SAVORY ALMONDS (Makes 4 cups)

This recipe calls for a mix of blanched (skins removed) and unblanched almonds. The brown and white nut mixture is attractive, but all blanched or all unblanched almonds may be used with equal success.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 egg white

2 cups whole shelled (unblanched) almonds, about 12 ounces

2 cups whole blanched* almonds, about 12 ounces

2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt

Liberally grease a baking sheet (preferably one with a rim) with the butter. Set aside.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk the egg white until foamy. Add the nuts, grated Parmesan cheese and seasoned salt; stir until evenly coated.

Spread the coated nuts on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until the blanched nuts are shiny and golden, stirring or shaking occasionally. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

* To blanch almonds: Place the nuts in a bowl and pour enough boiling water over them to cover. Let stand 45 seconds, then drain. Cover with cold water, then drain. Slip off the skins. Dry and reserve the almonds.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 262 calories, 9 gm protein, 9 gm carbohydrates, 23 gm fat, 3 gm saturated fat, 3 mg cholesterol, 222 mg sodium.

CURRIED NUTS (Makes 2 cups)

1/4 cup olive oil

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon good-quality curry powder (such as Madras)

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 cups mixed unsalted roasted nuts (a suggested combination: Brazil nuts, cashews, filberts, pecans and walnuts), probably about 12 ounces depending on types of nuts used

1 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt

In a skillet, combine olive oil, cayenne pepper, curry powder and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well and heat until very hot.

Add the nuts to the oil mixture. Stir until well coated. Spread on a baking sheet lined with brown paper. Bake at 300 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, stirring or shaking occasionally.

Toss the nuts with the coarse salt and let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 258 calories, 4 gm protein, 7 gm carbohydrates, 26 gm fat, 4 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 287 mg sodium.

Adapted from "Joy of Cooking" by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker (Bobbs-Merrill, 1931) HERBED AND PEPPERED NUTS (Makes 4 cups)

1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground white pepper (or an additional 1/2 teaspoon black pepper)

1 teaspoon dried rosemary, very finely crumbled

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of cayenne pepper

2 egg whites

6 dashes hot pepper sauce

2 cups walnut halves, about 8 ounces

2 cups pecan halves, about 8 ounces

In a large bowl, combine bread crumbs, black pepper, white pepper, rosemary, salt and cayenne pepper; set aside.

In a second large bowl, whisk egg whites and hot pepper sauce until foamy. Add walnuts and pecans; toss to coat well.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer nuts to the bowl with the bread crumb mixture. Toss well.

Spread nuts on a baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring or shaking occasionally. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Note: The recipe easily can be cut in half.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 200 calories, 6 gm protein, 7 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 98 mg sodium.

Adapted from Redbook magazine, November 1988 ORANGE PECANS (Makes 2 cups)

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1/4 cup orange juice

2 cups pecan halves, about 8 ounces

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, orange peel and orange juice. Bring to a boil.

Add the pecans, reduce heat and boil gently until the liquid cooks away.

Carefully spread the nuts on wax paper to dry. When cool, break the nuts apart. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 274 calories, 2 gm protein, 30 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, .6 mg sodium.

SHERRIED WALNUTS (Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

As a variation, use dark rum instead of sherry and rename the dessert nuts West Indies walnuts.

3/4 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons sherry

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 1/2 cups walnut halves, about 6 ounces

About 1/2 cup white granulated sugar (to roll nuts in)

In a large bowl, mix together the brown sugar, sherry and corn syrup. Add the walnuts and stir until the nuts are well coated.

Roll each walnut in granulated sugar and place on wax paper to dry. If liquid coating mixture is not used up, continue adding walnut halves until it is finished. Store in a airtight container for up to two weeks.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 366 calories, 8 gm protein, 49 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 14 mg sodium.

Adapted from "The Fannie Farmer Cookbook" (11th Edition), revised by Wilma Lord Perkins (Little, Brown, 1965) SUGARED AND SPICED NUTS (Makes 2 cups)

1/2 cup sugar

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Dash of salt

4 tablespoons water

1 cup walnut halves, about 4 ounces

1 cup pecan halves, about 4 ounces

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, salt and water. Bring to a boil.

Add the nuts, reduce heat and boil gently until the liquid cooks away.

Carefully spread the nuts on wax paper to dry. When cool, break the nuts apart. Store in a airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 233 calories, 5 gm protein, 17 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, .9 mg sodium.

HONEYED WALNUTS (Makes 3 cups)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups walnut halves, about 12 ounces

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, honey and water. Bring to a boil and cook until the mixture reaches the firm-soft stage (250 degrees on a candy thermometer). This takes about 5 minutes.

Have ready a sheet of wax paper on a counter top. As soon as the syrup mixture is ready, remove from heat. Add the vanilla and walnuts. Mix together thoroughly but quickly and turn onto the wax paper. With a spatula, smooth the nuts into one layer. Cool for at least one hour.

When cool, break the nuts apart. They keep best in a loosely covered container (not airtight) and may be stored for up to two weeks.

Per 1/4-cup serving: 301 calories, 8 gm protein, 33 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 90 mg sodium.

From The "Six-Minute Souffle' And Other Culinary Delights" by Carol Cutler (Clarkson N. Potter, 1976) COFFEE NUTS (Makes 2 cups)

1 cup sugar

1 heaping tablespoon instant coffee

1/4 cup water

2 cups pecan halves, about 8 ounces

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, instant coffee and water. Bring to a boil.

Add the pecans, reduce heat and boil gently until the liquid cooks away.

Carefully spread the nuts on wax paper to dry. When cool, breaks the nuts apart. Store in a airtight container for up to two weeks.

Per serving: 270 calories, 2 gm protein, 29 gm carbohydrates, 18 gm fat, 1 gm saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, .5 mg sodium.

Ellen Ficklen is a Washington-based freelance writer and editor.