Jennifer Mastroianni: Christmastime aromas ace the sniff test

Jennifer Mastroianni

Researchers have been exploring the psychology of scent for years. Two things scientists agree on: We make most of our olfactory memories as children and, as we grow up, certain aromas can evoke a flood of recollections.

My 13-year-old son put this concept into words when he said to me last week, “I love Christmas, mom. I love how it smells.”

For him, olfactory triggers may be the scent of my Russian tea balls baking in the oven, or fresh pine roping along the picket fence outside our back door, or hints of woodsmoke from a crackling fire.

What are the favorite scents at your house? Maybe it’s gingersnap cookies, spiced cider and cedar boughs. Perhaps you would like to add a few more fragrances to your list?

Consider white chocolate eggnog truffles scented with nutmeg. Or in honor of National Cocoa Day on Sunday, whip up a batch of homemade hot cocoa mix for your family or to package in jars and give as holiday gifts.

Also, aromatic ornaments are an easy and fun craft for kids that will have your home smelling of cinnamon and apple all through the holidays.


1 pound white baking chocolate, divided

4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground

1/4 teaspoon imitation rum extract

Ground nutmeg, for sprinkling

Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate as directed on package. Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, nutmeg and extract in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed mixer until well blended and smooth. Add melted chocolate; beat until well mixed. Cover. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.

Shape into 24 (about 3/4-inch) balls. Place on wax paper-lined tray. Refrigerate until ready to dip.

Coat only 12 truffles at a time. Melt 4 ounces of the remaining chocolate in small microwaveable bowl on medium (50 percent power) 1 1/2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute.

Using a fork, dip 1 truffle at a time into the melted chocolate. Tap back of fork 2 or 3 times against edge of dish to allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place truffles on wax paper-lined tray. (If there are any “bald” spots on truffle, cover with melted chocolate that remains on the fork.)

Sprinkle truffles with nutmeg. Repeat with remaining 4 ounces chocolate and remaining truffles.

Refrigerate 1 hour or until chocolate is set. Store truffles between layers of wax paper in airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week.

Tip: When dipping the truffles, do so in 2 batches (as directed above in Step 3) as the coldness of the truffles may cause the melted chocolate to harden. Makes 2 dozen truffles.

— McCormick


1 25-ounce package nonfat dry milk powder

1 1/2 cups non-dairy coffee creamer, about 6 ounces

3 cups instant chocolate drink mix

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. Makes 16 cups. Enough cocoa mix for four 1-quart jars to give, or split into small portions packed in decorative bags in mugs. Give with directions below.


In a mug, combine 1/2 cup of mix with 1 cup of boiling water.


Equal parts apple sauce and cinnamon

Cookie cutters

Ribbon or string

Mix equal amounts of applesauce and cinnamon (such as 1 cup of each) until you have a dough. Roll out on waxed paper and cut into shapes using Christmas or themed cookie cutters.

Poke a hole in the middle, near the top to hang a ribbon or string when the ornament is dry. Set out to dry. It will take several days and you must carefully turn them to dry both sides. Or, bake them in a 200-degree oven until dried.

The Repository