Chia Pudding, Iced Tea and Cold Strawberry Soup


Hey there! I know it has been almost 2 weeks since my last post and I apologize for that. My life has been non stop and crazy booked, I haven’t had time to sit, or even have a glass of wine. Some may not think that’s a bad thing 🤗 teehee. Between picking up extra shifts at work (oh I don’t know why!) and the everyday life of being Noah, Abagail and Liam’s mom, and Levi’s wife, I have been working on my admissions essay for a graduate program I am applying to. And it has had my brain all over the place! Trying to get my brain back into “school, paper writing and homework” mode has been taxing! But, also it just seems perfect. I always joke that if being a student was ever a profession, I’d be employee of the month every month. I love school. I love the organization that comes with it, the deadlines and creating papers that have my voice, thoughts and ideas all over them. I love making my brain work. Not that being a mom doesn’t make my brain work, believe me it does! But there’s something about learning that always leaves me wanting more, hungry and thirsty for whatever is out there in the world.

Speaking of being hungry and thirsty, and making my brain work, I had the privilege to provide the food for a women’s retreat at my church this past weekend. I cannot tell you how excited I was to be asked! The retreat fell between two shifts at work (and anyone who knows me knows that I work those lovely 12 hour shifts through the night at a hospital), so sleep was hard to come by this week, but that’s ok! I got to create a menu, put a schedule together on how to get all of the food made during the craziness that is my life! I was able to cook, chop, dice, stir, blend and bake, and write out name tags for the food and share what’s in it (do I sound like a nerd yet??). But most importantly, I got to share the kind of food that I love to cook the most, while (hopefully) blessing 30 women/moms on a day retreat. I’ve mentioned before that food brings us together, it allows for fellowship while nourishing and fueling us. It opens us up somehow, gives us comfort, and helps us feel connected with those sitting with us around the table. And I got to be there and witness the new friendships being planted or old ones being fed (figuratively and literally!). As I sat down for a meal with the ladies of my church, I was so thankful to be there, to be present with such amazing, wise, loving people. And the yummy noises were pretty cool too! It was such an honor to provide the food for this retreat.

The Menu

This was the first time I’ve catered an event or party that I made everything. And let me tell you, it felt so good to do that! Although, my kitchen looked like a bomb hit it…..sacrifices right? 😝 I was asked to make the morning break snacks and lunch. The snacks were easy to come up with: fruits and vegetables were the obvious choice. But I also wanted a special treat for the ladies, something that hits the spot but would also provide them with energy and not drag them down. That’s where chocolate chia pudding with coconut whipped cream comes in. Loaded with omega-3’s, it was the perfect treat to accompany the morning snack.


I had a lot of fun creating the lunch menu, and by fun I mean wracking my brain for the perfect lunch, trying recipe after recipe, searching for the perfect combination. And course, I wanted the menu to be plant based. I went back and forth on making casseroles, lasagne, or soups, food that is made in bulk and can easily feed a crowd. But, I settled on something a little more simple, something that wasn’t as complex as my multi ingredient cowboy lasagne. While reading through a delightful, easy mom recipe cookbook I recently downloaded onto my kindle, I saw a recipe for cold cucumber soup and it hit me: finger sandwiches, salads and soup. Not to mention chocolatey treats! Such a perfect pairing for a Saturday retreat lunch. Simple. Nummy. And not too heavy, like any casserole would have been. And the prep work for a menu like this, was manageable with my hectic week. I was super excited!

the craziness of organization

I made two different kinds of finger sandwiches: cucumber dill with a vegan mayonnaise. Who can go wrong with those!?? And carmelized onion with humus sandwiches. A couple of years ago, I had a tea party themed party for my daughter’s birthday, and I discovered these hummus sandwiches. They are so simple to make but so full of flavor! Everyone at the retreat loved them and were as astonished as I was that carmelized onions and hummus paired so well together. I made the sandwiches with Sprouts’ whole wheat bread. I also had a gluten-free option made with Canyon Bakehouse Bread. I like to know going in what food allergies people have, so I can make sure I have something that they can eat.

I made two huge, nummy salads: my shredded kale salad , and a lemon herb quinoa salad, made with 3 different kinds of herbs, white beans, kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, quinoa and arugula with a lemon balsamic dressing. I looovvveeee that salad. It’s becoming my go to for parties and gatherings.

For the soup. Oh the soup. By far, my favorite thing that I made. I wrote a blog about Manna Restaurant and in that blog, I talked about a cold strawberry soup I tried there. I absolutely loved that soup, and the concept of it. So, I decided to make it! Made with creamy coconut milk, and a hint of orange juice and cinnamon, the soup was a perfect start (or middle or end!) to lunch. I had the soup waiting for the women at the table, served in individual portions, topped with a little orange zest.

I transported the soup to the church in a tea pitcher 😝

Now, for the chocolate. Every women’s retreat needs a plethora of chocolate, right? Or any Tuesday? 😂 I chose to make two vegan chocolate banana applesauce cakes, one with a fudgy date frosting. I love this cake because the ingredients are simple, and it’s clean: no oil, dairy or eggs.


For a gluten free option, I made rich chocolate brownie bites, coated with melted vegan dark chocolate. The secret to those bad boys? They are made with black beans 😋

I walked into the kitchen of the church Saturday morning, hauling in all of the food I prepped. It took me a couple of hours to put it all together, but I had so much fun doing it! The kitchen was quiet, and I was able to take my time. There was no need to rush. Against all odds, I pulled it off. And the women really enjoyed my food, saying that they really love food that makes them feel good and doesn’t bring them down or make them sleepy. To them, it was delicious! And I was able to make it without any animal products, refined sugar and oil (well, mayo excluded!). I will try to get those recipes up in the Vault recipes page soon.

Until next time….

Bon Appetit! 

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!