Manna Restaurant: Bringing God’s Bounty to the Table

Ok, I work in a hospital. And I loooovvveee my job. We are a level one trauma center, which means we get a lot of different, serious, life threatening traumas and I get to see a lot of stuff. Pretty awesome. And we also have the best neuro facility and team in the region. That’s kind of a big deal. Those are two things my hospital is known for. What we aren’t known for, however, is the food. Sure we have a decent salad bar in our cafe and Monday mac n’ cheese has become pretty legendary throughout the hospital staff. And we have a pretty tasty coffee shop with a wide variety of organic and plant based items to choose from. But that’s it. Hospitals are not known for their food, the exact opposite actually. Patients will ask family members to bring them outside food sometimes because there’s only so many times a person can have turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes. And that hospital coffee….oh man. It’s a far cry from Starbucks, or even Foldgers. 😂 It’s just not something hospitals thrive to achieve to have; a good, tasty menu. There is one hospital however, in Castle Rock, CO that people actually go to because of its food. People who aren’t even patients go to this hospital on a daily basis just to eat there. Well, to eat at the restaurant inside of the hospital. Until recently, I had never heard of such a thing, a full service restaurant inside of a hospital. Inside of Airports, sure. Inside of Malls and sports arenas, absolutely. But inside of a hospital? That’s a new one. 

Castle Rock Adventist Hospital houses one of Colorado’s most unique restaurants, called Manna Restaurant. Founded by award winning chef, Chef Dan Skay and Johnson and Wales culinary grad, Chef Adam Freisem, Manna practices a farm to table mentality, using whatever is in season in Colorado. A quote from the restaurant’s website: “Reflecting Colorado’s growing season and featuring the best our region has to offer. We suppprt humane, sustainable and responsible farming practices, even from our own garden. For the simple fact-local food, raised and produced by people who care, is better”. Manna Restaurant partners with farmers, bakeries and coffee vendors throughout the state of Colorado, supporting local businesses and using what is produced in Colorado to operate their restaurant. Businesses like Busy Bee Honey FarmBest Buddies BakeryCoda CoffeeGrowers Organic, and Jumping Goat Dairy Farm, to name a few! 

The biblical history behind manna is that manna is the food that God provided the Israelites on their travels in the desert during the 40 year period following the Exodus. He provided just enough to eat each day, and a double portion was given to them on the Sabbath. Some refer to manna as a flaky, miraculous food. And the motto behind Manna Restaurant is that they are bringing God’s bounty to the table. Being that Castle Rock Adventist is a Christian, not for profit hospital, so is Manna Restaurant. Every tip that is given to the servers that work at Manna, is given to their wellness foundation, and they donate that money to a different charity every month. Being not for profit allows Manna to keep their menu prices low, and provide good, wholesome, whole food to hospital families and anyone else who wanders into their restaurant, because how many people say, “hey do you want to go to the hospital for dinner tonight?!”

The restaurant is striving to provide a healthy food option for not only the patients in the hospital, but for the community around them. A lot of hospitals work towards providing healthy food options for their patients, but still end up with a lot of processed foods on their menus, as well foods that have very little nutrients. Manna’s menu is full of nutrient-dense food options, something our bodies need to heal, and stay healthy. I commend them for what they are doing! 

Now, to the restaurant….

As you enter thru the main enterance of the hospital, the restaurant is on the left. The restaurant itself is a bit different: you walk into Manna Market, where there’s a small coffee shop, and their salad bar. 

The salad bar is unique in the fact that most of the items on the salad bar were homemade, including stuffed grape leaves 🤗.

There was also a plethora of healthy, organic “to-go” foods in Manna Market, from bottled smoothies, chips and salads, to sandwiches and their homemade wood fire pizza by the slice. 

To the left of the enterance is their dining room, which is seat yourself. And there’s also a handful of chairs at an open kitchen counter, where you can sit and eat, while watching the cooks in action. That’s where my husband and I chose to sit! 

Ok, now on to the food! I cannot tell you how unique Manna’s menu was! This menu, at first glance, has a fine dining quality to it. From sushi grade appetizers, to lamb burgers and carmelized plantines with avocado crema. Manna’s menu is unique and creative, offering food options made with ingredients from the earth, and from scratch. They even had homemade ketchup and mustard on the table! And, hands down, it was the most tasty ketchup and mustard I’ve ever had. And I used to liveon ketchup growing up.😉 

I started my Manna experience with a bowl of chilled strawberry and coconut soup. It was so creamy and sweet, with a touch of cinnamon. And the flavor of the strawberry reminded me so much of summertime. I bought two bowls to take home to feed to my kids for breakfast the next morning. It was sooooo good. 

Dinner options were out of this world. Wood fire pizzas, house made burgers, and more traditional meaty options like ribs, lamb and fish. I went for one of their burgers, The Forager. Made with Hazel Dell mushrooms, potatoes and wild rice, this burger is easily in my top 5 veggie burgers of all time. I had to “alter” the burger, because of what I saw came with the burger listed right above it on the menu. The burger was a lamb burger, topped with spicy blueberry relish and goat cheese. I add to have that relish on my mushroom and potato burger. And the chefs weren’t surprised in the least that I asked for it, they say it happens often. The blueberry relish was very flavorful, sweet with a little kick. The sweetness of it, and the tartness of the goat cheese, added another dimension of delish to my peppery, startchy, falling apart mess of a burger. I’ll say it again, one of the best burgers I’ve ever had. 

The bun to burger ratio was perfect , and I had to try their shoe string fries with their homemade ketchup and mustard. Who would have thought this tasty food would be in a hospital?? 

I was too full for dessert, but I got it anyway…🤗😋 I know, I know, you shouldn’t eat when you’re full,  it I was very curious about their pea cake dessert. Yes, you read it right, pea cake. And yes, it was indeed made from peas. And it was green!  It wasn’t too sweet, but did have a nice cake texture to it. If it doesn’t sound too hippie of me to say, the pea cake really had an earthy taste to it, not like other vegan cakes I’ve had. Served with candied pistachios and pea shoots in a bed of vanilla sauce, it really was the perfect end to my meal. I mean, who doesn’t make their cakes with peas?? 

If you’re in the area of Castle Rock and are in need of a good, wholesome meal, venture in to Castle Rock Adventist Hospital and give Manna Restaurant a try. You will be so happy you did! 

Until Next Time….

Bon Appetit! 


BBQ Tofu and mushroom Sandwiches

About 9 years ago, before kids were in the picture, Levi and I were in a season of life where I was trying to get healthy. Just getting out of treatment for an eating disorder and getting over c-diff, food had become so foreign and terrifying to me, and the list of foods I could eat without messing up my tummy was, well, short. But, Levi, the wonderful man that he is, searched for places he could take me out to, places with food that was clean and of course, no meat. We lived in downtown Denver at the time, and there is no shortage of places to eat that were organic and had meatless options. For my birthday that year, Levi found a place that had BBQ Tofu sandwiches, a small little place called Wolfe’s BBQ. I remember that place as if it were yesterday. It was in the Capital Hill neighborhood, right on Colfax Ave and Logan Street. It was definition “hole in the wall”, but a diamond in the rough. It was one of those places you’re afraid to try,  yet you walk in and see awards on the wall for voted Denver’s best BBQ 2003. Many Yelp reviewers dubbed Wolfe’s “the best BBQ tofu in Denver”, and “there’s more to this place than meets the eye”. You could smell the fragrance of smoky, sweet, home made BBQ sauce on the street, outside of the restaurant. You walk in to a maybe 500 square foot store, with a rather large menu hanging on the wall right above the open kitchen. And maybe, 10 tables occupied the establishment. We ate there, of course. And it was a place in need of serious redecorating, with red and white checkered picnic table clothes stapled onto the tables, and walls needing to be painted. With that said, it matched the culture of Colfax Avenue perfectly! 😝One man took our order, and brought us our food, while one other person was in the kitchen making orders. I had their BBQ tofu sandwich, and for a hole in the wall place, it was the best BBQ that wasn’t meat that I had ever had. It was smoky, spicy and messy! Everything a BBQ sandwich requires. Wolfe’s shut their doors in 2010, after 25 years. So sad to hear that! But, years later, I still crave a good BBQ sandwich. And that’s where these bad boys come in. Louis Wolfe, former owner of Wolfe’s BBQ, this sandwich is for you. 

All that goes in to these sandwiches is tofu, mushrooms, BBQ sauce, garlic, pepper and fresh sage. That’s it. And they are really easy to make. And if cooked right, with patience and enough sauce, you may not even miss the fact that these aren’t made of pork or beef. 

Start by sautéing your mushrooms first, be patient and let the water cook out of them. Salt and pepper to taste, and add the BBQ sauce at the end and let the mushrooms simmer a couple of minutes in the sauce. It’s important you don’t add the BBQ sauce too soon, as you will most likely need to drain the excess water out of the pan from the mushrooms and you don’t want to lose your sauce. Set the mushrooms aside when done cooking.

NOTE: this sandwich is NOT the time to use a store brand, cheap BBQ sauce. Splurge for the good kind! I like Rib Rack BBQ sauce, and I buy it at Sprouts Farmer’s Market. It’s loaded with flavor and doesn’t have any added “junk” in it. 

Next, open your extra firm tofu and press it as firm as you can between two paper towels. Try and get as much water out of the tofu as you can. I use extra firm tofu because personally, I don’t like a soft, mushy sandwich. Slice the tofu length wise and start browning it in the pan. Let it cook for about 5 minutes on each side.

After you have a good brown going on the tofu, start scrambling it with a spatula, trying to get the look and consistency of scrambled eggs. This would be the point where you may need to drain excess water out of the pan. After you drain your tofu, add your pressed garlic cloves, and let them make their way to the bottom of the pan so their aroma comes alive and your kitchen smells of garlic…and tofu. Wake that garlic up! But just for a few minutes, then add your BBQ sauce and let it simmer until the sauce thickens. 

Lastly, add your freshly chopped sage. Let it cook for a few minutes, and incorporate your mushrooms, then remove tofu from heat. 

Top a bun with a heaping spoon full of tofu  and mushrooms. The only difference between this sandwich and the one I had years ago at Wolfe’s BBQ, is I scrambled my tofu. Wolfe’s served his tofu length wise on the bun. Oh and he made his own BBQ sauce, but that’s neither here or there. Teehee. Enjoy this sandwich any night of the week. Bring it to your next BBQ potluck. You won’t even miss the meat! 

BBQ Tofu and Mushroom Sandwiches 

Serves 6-8


  • 2 -8 oz packages of button mushrooms
  • 1-2 jars quality BBQ sauce, depending on how much sauce you prefer 
  • 2 packages of extra firm tofu
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed 
  • 1-2 TBS fresh chopped sage
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Make it! 

  1. First sauté your mushrooms with a 1/4 cup vegetable broth or water if you don’t have broth. Be patient, let all of the water cook out of the mushrooms. Drain any excess water. Set aside when done. 
  2. Open up your tofu, and press it between two paper towels, pushing firmly to remove as much water from the tofu as possible. Slice length wise and cook over medium heat in large pan to brown, about five minutes on each side. 
  3. With a spatula, scramble your tofu, much like the consistency of scrambled eggs. Let the tofu cook a few minutes more to cook out as much water as possible. Drain any excess water.
  4. Add your pressed garlic cloves, letting garlic cook a few minutes to become aromatic. Then add your BBQ sauce and let the tofu simmer until the sauce becomes thick.
  5. Add your fresh chopped sage and cook only a few minutes more. Add mushrooms and stir to combine. Remove from heat. Serve on whole wheat buns. And with coleslaw…..enjoy! 

Until next time….

Bon Appetit! 

Our Last Hoorah in Congress Park

12 years ago, almost to the day, my husband and I made our first ever home purchase. We bought a one bedroom condo off Colorado Blvd and 11th Ave in Congress Park, a neighborhood just 10 minutes east of downtown Denver, CO. We couldn’t have been more excited about owning our own place, and Levi, at the time, was walking distance from work. A few milestones happened during our 6 years of living there: 2 college degrees, the birth of our first child, Levi making his way up the Plant Ops ladder. And handfuls of memories that we will keep with us always. Memories like biking to work and school downtown, walking to restaurants on date night, renting movies on Friday nights at the Corner Spotlight, which is now home to Trader Joe’s. Or riding the #10 bus home from whatever we were doing downtown. 

Or walking our dog through the neighborhood, dreaming of someday owning a Denver bungalow. Walking to Annie’s Cafe on 8th and Colorado Blvd., to have breakfast for dinner, before it moved to its location on Colfax Ave.

 Sitting at Marco’s Pizza, still in awe that we lived down there! And of course, eating the best margarita pizza we’ve ever had in our lives. 😋 And who can forget the irresistible Pad Thai from Swing Thai? I still can’t find Pad Thai that is as good as theirs. 😩😩 Well, we still own that condo…for about 6 more days. We have been renting it out for the past 6 years, losing money on it every month. But I haven’t been able to let go of it, because I feared those memories would disappear and that that part of my life would officially be over. The “before kids” life, the time when life seemed a little simpler, even though we definitely had our struggles. I’m a very emotional and sentimental person, and I hang on tight to feelings. 

Cities like Denver are notorious for having many restaurant gems tucked away in the neighborhoods. Washington Park (Wash Park) is a great example, as well as Capital Hill, The Highlands, and of course, Congress Park, to name a few. So, for date night, the hubby and I decided to have one last night out in our old neighborhood, and try to hold onto those feelings just a little bit longer. I wanted to try the places that we always walked or drove by, and talked about, but never actually went to. There are 2 neighborhood area shops that are located along the street of 12th Ave in Congress Park. The first cluster is located just a few blocks west of Colorado Blvd., where shops occupy all four corners of the intersection at 12th and Madison. There used to be an ice cream shop called The Daily Scoopthat was famous for the “12th Avenue Twister”, their version of a Dairy Queen blizzard, but is now occupied by another ice cream shop called Sweet Cooie’s Ice Cream Shop

There is also a great local coffee shop called Under the Umbrella Cafe and Bakery, and they have a really good chai latte; a Dominoes Pizza and a gardening shop, called Wildflowers.

And lastly, a children’s music school sits right in between Pudge Brother’s pizza and Sienna Wine Bar. A lot sure has changed since we have lived down there. 

The second cluster of shops in the neighborhood, where we chose to go, is a little east of Josephine on 12th. This cluster hasn’t changed much. It is still home to Peter’s Chinese food  (really, really good Chinese food😊), a laundry mat, 12th Avenue Market and an Ace Hardware. I always thought that location was odd to have an Ace Harware, but it’s been in business for a long time!

And of course, Chef Zorba’s, rated number one for Greek food in Denver. Their baklava is amazing! We always chuckled about how run down it looked from the outside, but it was always packed with people for lunch and dinner. 

At the end of the row of shops and restaurants, is a restaurant space that changed a couple of times during our time in Congress Park. The restaurant that is currently in that space, seems to be doing pretty well. Shells and Sauce has become a very popular Italian spot in the neighborhood. With a spectacular roof top view, I couldn’t wait to share a meal with my man at this cozy, romantic neighborhood venue. 

As you walk in to the restaurant you notice their semi-open kitchen right away, tucked behind their comfy first floor dining room and the bar to the right. The hostess greets you within seconds and everyone is super friendly. I was in heaven immediately. How could I not be? Eating in a place serving my favorite food (spaghetti and salad) with my favorite person in the world, in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the world. It felt like the perfect night already, and we hadn’t even sat down yet! 

The hostess sat us upstairs, in their enclosed roof top seating. The view over looking the neighborhood was amazing, and added a perfect back drop to our night.

Now…on to the food. This is a food blog after all 😝🤗

We started with salads. Aside from their traditional Italian Caesar salad (which my hubby got) and a tossed mixed green salad, there were a few hidden gems on the menu, one of which was their porteblla mushroom salad. It was so tasty! Peppery arugula lay a top grilled portobello mushrooms, with baby tomatoes, onions and crispy capers all combined for a perfect, crunchy, zesty bite! And I can’t forget to mention the tangy, lemon vinaigrette that gently coated the salad. Yum yum 👅 

The hubby’s Caesar salad

Accompanied by their herb bread dipped in a balsamic herb reduction, and my glass of Malbec, it was a perfect start to our meal.

Can I just say that I looooovvvvveeee balsamic vinegar?? Especially with herbs and bread!! Teehee 😋😋

Italian restaurants can be a little tough to find a good plant based meal. Yes, spaghetti can be vegan but it’s also not very nutritious on its own. Throw veggies into the sauce, make it with a plant based noodle like edamame or brown rice, you have just enhanced the nutrition of your spaghetti. But, more traditional Italian restaurants don’t carry edamame or brown rice noodles. So what is a plant based friendly alternative? Well, this gal went for the butternut squash, sweet potato and goat cheese stuffed shells, with a pesto sauce. Goat cheese? Goat cheese is vegan? Ummmm well, no. But if you want to know why I eat goat cheese once in a while, read this. No, goat cheese is not vegan, but it has more vitamins in it than cow milk and is considered a clean food to eat. Also, most goat farms are humane and treat the goats kindly. Lastly, some cultures would use goat milk as infant formula, because of it’s vitamins and easiness to digest. So yes, I will indulge in goat cheese every now and then. Plus, it’s yum and gives me my cheese fix! 

The stuffed shells were very creamy, and sweet because of the sweet potato. The sweet flavor paired really well with the pesto sauce. And the whole bite was finished with the after taste of tangy goat cheese. Bam! 

The conversation between my husband and I that night was the best it’s been in a long time. Me sipping my wine, him his whiskey, we talked about where we’ve been, where we are now in our busy life. And of course, where we hope to be going. Actually having the time to sit and talk, uninterrupted, was a gift to us that night, as I am sure it is to most parents. Most days, we talk while taking care of 3 crazy kids, barely finishing a sentence before our attention is averted. We talked for a while that night, and shared an amazing dessert. Flourless chocolate cake is one of my faves. They are typically made with dark chocolate, and are so rich you can only have a few bites before going into a chocolate coma. 😍but the creaminess of a cake made without flour, cannot be beat. 

There was an article written in the Westword back in 2009, that takes the readers down memory lane on Colorado Blvd. I related so much to it! The last line was “I will always return to Colorado Blvd”. I really hope I do too. 

Until next time….

Bon Appetit!