Four years ago, Kathy Dale worried that one of her favorite holiday traditions would be no more. For several years, she and other Mayo Clinic Hospice volunteers had rolled up their sleeves and pulled out their rolling pins at home to bake dozens of cookies, bars and other holiday delights for Mayo Clinic Hospice patients. But when a (grinchy) set of new food regulations put an end to that, they feared their more than 20-year tradition of baking holiday treats for hospice patients throughout southeastern Minnesota was toast.
But then, as we've previously shared, Joe Powers and his Powers Venture staff appeared one foggy eve (or day, perhaps) offering their commercial kitchen space. A year later, they did it again. And then again. This year, they once again graciously donated the use of their commercial kitchen inside the Hilton Hotel in downtown Rochester. "It's just wonderful to have somewhere so big and so spacious with all the big ovens for us to use," Kathy Dale says. "We really appreciate that."
On the day of this year's great holiday bake-a-thon, Dale and her holiday baking co-chair, Sandy Stensland, rose early to meet with the hotel's kitchen staff "to get a feel for where everything was in the kitchen" before the day's baking madness began. "We had seven helpers in the morning and by the end of the day we had 18," Dale tells us. "We set up a recipe per table and had two or three people working at each table." Not just working, but also doing math. "We usually have to make each recipe times 10," Dale says.
As you might guess, that kind of volume doesn't allow the group to bake and decorate individual cookies. "We'd be there for days," Dale says. Instead, each year Dale and her group looks for easily scalable recipes that can be mass-baked on commercial-sized sheet pans. This year that included nine different recipes that yielded more than 400 dozen Reese's Peanut Butter bars, oatmeal caramel bars, candy pretzel rods, coconut thumbprint cookies, chocolate toffee bars, cherry bars, "those Rolo pretzels with the M&M in the middle," and peppermint bark to be delivered to hospice patients throughout Olmsted, Dodge, Fillmore, Wabasha, Goodhue, Mower and Winona counties.
For Dale, it's always a labor of love. "This is such a rewarding thing for all of us to do," she says. "The people who we deliver to are in hospice, so obviously they're at the end of their lives. This is a hard time of year for their families, and one of the last things they think about is baking cookies. So to ring their doorbell and present them with a nice big plate of holiday treats is nice for them, and equally nice and rewarding for us."
Reward us with your comments below before using the sweet social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.