Chocolates to "Dye" for and Memories Relived

Activities for the Great Indoors

This time of year the air is filled with enticing smells: cinnamon, vanilla, pine. These smells bring to mind memories of holidays past. For me, the smell that brings back the happiest memories is melted chocolate.

Let me introduce you to my grandmother, Gayla Dye, chocolatier extraordinaire! She has been making chocolates for over 30 years. Her “Chocolates to Dye For” are world-famous, and have been gifted to loved ones around the globe. Unfortunately, she doesn’t sell them, but I am going to let you in on her Mint Truffle recipe. Hold on to your Santa hats, because you are not going to believe how easy it is to make this melt-in-your-mouth goodness!

Sadly, I do not have a good toffee recipe to share with you, as Grandma never really made toffee, so you’ll have to keep going to Enstrom’s for your toffee fix!

First step: Wash those hands! This is always a good rule, and one Grandma was strict about. Because we were making candy to share, and because Grandma was a nurse, we had to wash our hands and then not touch anything. If we accidentally did touch anything, Grandma always saw and sent us back to the sink to wash up again. 

Once you are germ-free, start by lining a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil. Next, scald 1 cup of heavy cream, or use Grandma’s simpler route and microwave for 45 seconds. While you let the cream cool a bit, start melting 2 lbs of chocolate. Grandma always used Peters, but go ahead and use your favorite high-quality chocolate. Do not use candy melts, just trust Grandma on this and don’t do it.

Grandma’s kitchen always turned into a small factory rivaling Mr. Wonka’s, with a machine specially designed for melting chocolate, and of course, her trusty stainless steel double boiler. However, in a pinch, you can use a pot of water with a metal or glass bowl big enough to sit above it, to melt the chocolate in. 

Once the chocolate is melted, transfer it to an electric mixing bowl. Be careful not to let any steam droplets drip into the chocolate! Water and chocolate will not play nicely. Next, add ⅛ tsp of peppermint oil (not flavoring!) to the still warm cream. Begin beating the chocolate with the electric mixer and slowly add in the cream, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl several times. When the truffle mixture is well combined, pour into the lined 9x13 dish and refrigerate until firm. 

When firm, cut into 1-inch squares. Grandma tip: Use a (clean) ruler and a pizza cutter. Melt another 2 lbs of chocolate in a double boiler, being careful not to overheat. Remove from heat and dip each truffle square in chocolate being sure to coat all the sides. Let sit until the chocolate hardens and sets. Place in a decorative candy cup and you are ready to share them with those you love the most. 

Make them once, and you may have to keep making them year after year after year, just like Grandma. Merry Christmas!

Another hobby that is catered to the great indoors is model building. I asked Chris Neilsen, owner of Hobby Hut Models in Grand Junction why people get into model building. I mean, I know why I like it. But I wanted to know why others enjoy it as much as I do. Chris said, "Most people who get into model building either built models as kids or usually have a connection to that thing in real life. One man came in and asked if I had a particular train. I replied that I did, and he immediately got excited and shared that he used to work on those back in his teenage years. He then bought the model and was happy to hold something that meant so much to him from years long since gone. It allows people to connect with the past, or own something they otherwise could never afford or find for sale. Like a rare supercar, an airplane, or a train. To own those actual things in real life if just too expensive, or impossible. But models bridge that gap". I found myself in agreeance as I eyed a model of a favorite car of mine. A 1971 Plymouth 'Cuda. I recently had seen one that was in perfect condition with all the original parts sell at auction for $3.5 million. $30 is much more achievable. 

Chris and I then found ourselves talking about dioramas and just like any hobby, there are rabbit holes to be explored, and in my case I enjoy dioramas. A YouTube channel, PLASMO - plastic models, is a favorite of mine and there are some fantastic diorama creations on that channel. But what I like about them, and what Chris pointed out is that someone can find grandpa's truck, or tractor, or airplane. Then they can get diorama building materials and completely re-make the car in grandpa's old garage. Like a 3-D picture from times long gone. 

Model building, whether it's trains, planes, or automobiles can be a lot of fun. You can find yourself connecting to the "good-old-days" or finding yourself the proud new owner of a Lamborgini.

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