Hey There, I’m Jen

Hi, I’m Jen and I live in Carlsbad, California (north San Diego), with my husband, Patrick, and my furry, four legged daughter, Kiwi, and together we WELCOME YOU to Carlsbad Cravings!!! I’m a cystic fibrosis survivor, lung & kidney transplant recipient, LOVER of life and FOOD!

At Carlsbad Cravings (est. 2014), you will find only my tried and true daringly delicious recipes with big, BOLD flavors – or what I like to describe as extraordinary flavors out of everyday ingredients. My #1 goal is to create the best version of every recipe (in my opinion), whether it’s Mexican, Italian, Asian or Greek. And if it’s not the best, then it doesn’t get shared! So, you can cook with confidence from my website, and hopefully you’ll think each recipe is “the best” too and discover many new favorites!

How it began

Some people escape in dreams of sandy beaches and sunny skies, I escape in dreams of mangos, chipotle peppers and bacon.  My creativity as a former interior designer flourishes in the kitchen as I find something so satisfying in creating delicious, flavorful (spices are my forte!), fresh food…and then eating it!
As Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:

“Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty. …” or something delicious!

I have been cooking and creating new recipes almost every day of the week since I got married in 2006 (see our love story here) and even created my own binder long before Carlsbad Cravings was born (see recipe binder below). When I was in desperate need of a kidney transplant and would come home from work exhausted with legs and feet so swollen I could only wear sandals and skirts (none of my shoes or pants would fit!), all l wanted to do was cook. Cooking and creating reinvigorated my exhausted self by feeding my mind, body and soul.

After I was blessed with new-found energy from my kidney transplant in October 2013 thanks to my doner sister (my lung transplant was in 1999), my doctor cautioned me about going back to work when I was so immune-suppressed. At that point, I was wondering what to do when my sister-in-law suggested I start a food blog. The words pierced my soul and I knew that was what I was supposed to do. I researched how to start a cooking site, how to turn it into a living and then I jumped in and never looked back!

Since launching Carlsbad Cravings in February 2014, I have shared over a thousand recipes that have reached over 140 million readers. I am honored every day to be invited into your homes. Thank you for making my recipes, trusting my recipes, leaving comments and for following along! You are the reason I’m allowed to do what I do! xo

Getting started – What seasonings to stock

To make every recipe the best version of itself, I rely heavily on seasonings. Seasonings MAKE a recipe! To that end, many of my recipes look like they have many ingredients, but often most of them are just dump-in spices, so please don’t be intimidated. I cook with the same spices all of the time, so once you purchase them, you’ll have everything you’ll need! Here are the pantry spices I recommend (you can purchase them little by little):

jump to recipe button

To help readers succeed and eliminate any guesswork, I include detailed tips and tricks in every recipe post. If you just want the recipe, you can use the “jump to recipe” button located at the top of every post to skip directly to the recipe. With that, everyone wins! Now, I hope you enjoy exploring my site and hopefully will create your own recipe binder full of Carlsbad Cravings favorites!

Want to Know More?

If you are curious about my journey with cystic fibrosis, my lung transplant, kidney transplant, love story
and more of my life, click on the links below:

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Reader Interactions

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  1. Jerry Loper says


    I think you are a phenomenal woman and this 74 year old man, that loves to cook, enjoys your recipes.

    I have always told people, it doesn’t matter how bad things get for you, you can always look around and find someone else that is/has gone through worse. That is the main reason I am doing this comment. I have friends that have gone through transplants and I would like to post your experience above on my Facebook page, for you are truly a remarkable woman, if you will please give me your permission to do so.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your kind message Jerry! Yes, you can absolutely share my story and anything else from my site, my book or my Instagram. You are such a great friend to uplift others!

  2. Walter says

    I found this page on Facebook on one of my good friend’s pages! Unbelieveable! I got stuck on this page and I am sharing it with all of my friends and family! Thank you for the manificent recipes. The videos are great. I hope to support you with purchases from you affiliate accounts and…I want to feature you on my podcast, PROGRESS IN THE WORLD.

    • Jen says

      What an incredibly kind comment, thanks Walter! I appreciate you following along, supporting and recommending my site! You can email me directly about the podcast, best!

  3. Candice says

    How can I more easily see the latest recipes instead of having to go by course? I have blogs I follow daily and this is one of them. The format has changed and I am sure there is a quicker way to look up latest recipes but I cannot figure out how. Thank you.

    • Jen says

      Hi Candice, the latest recipes are listed on the homepage after you scroll past the “about” and large search bar. You can also sign up to get me email updates every time I post a recipe 😉

  4. Tricia says

    Add Boursin cheese to any meatball recipe and it totally elevates meatball

    • Candice says

      So just scroll through readers favorites and that is the latest recipes? Thank you.

      • Jen says

        Scroll past the readers favorites – so below them and below the search box.

  5. Debbie Lynn Thompson says

    I just wanted to say I recently came across a recipe of yours called Blackened Chicken Alfredo. OMG!! It was so so deelishus!! I commend you for it!! I/we loved it so much I am mixing up these ingredients for tonight’s pork tenderloin!! I also loved the fact that all the spices you call for, I have in my cabinet!! Thank you so much!! I’ve got my eye on you for more of your deelishusness!!

    • Jen says

      Welcome Debbie! I’m so pleased the Blackened Chicken Alfredo was such a hit and that you’re excited for more! I hope you discover many new favorites here!

  6. Jim Roberts says

    Each recipe is like a short story or novella. I love reading all of your directions, notes, and tips. I feel I get a very good grasp of the sense of the recipe, not just what and how. You are a gifted teacher. I would absolutely recommend a book.

    And your story is so inspiring. So many misfortunes, but such an indomitable spirit. My hopes go out for a continued happy, productive, and fun-filled life!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your kind words Jim about my recipes and the well wishes for my life! I’m so pleased you find the tips and tricks interesting and helpful and I’m honored you’ve taken the time to read about my journey! I wish you a joyous life as well!

  7. Caleigh McCaffrey says

    Your recipes are my all time favourite! They are my number 1 go to and they never disappoint. If you had a cook book, it would be the only one I would ever buy and use 🙂

    Thank you again!

    • Jen says

      That is so nice of you, thanks Caleigh! No plans for a cookbook, but I’ll let you know if anything changes

  8. Lois Cotterly says

    You are an inspiration and an amazing cook. Love your recipes. Thank you

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much Lois, so nice of you to brighten my day!

  9. Marlene Gold-Beck says

    .Hi Jen,
    First off I want to say I’m not really experienced at cooking rice. I saw your “Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice”. it sounded awesome! BTW, In your tips, you recommended rinsing the rice before toasting it. However Your recipe doesn’t specify what to do once the rice is rinsed . Do I toast the rice in a pot and continue on cooking it Or do I have to let the rice dry overnight? This step is not mentioned in the instructions of Restaurant-Style Mexican Rice?
    BTW, The Smothered Baked chicken Burritos were Awesome as well, I used the uncooked Burritos to make them So much better tasting!


    • Jen says

      Hi Marlene, you don’t need to let the rice dry, just rinse it in a fine mesh sieve, shake off excess water and proceed with the recipe – toasting it will dry it out, hope that helps! It is detailed in the Notes of the recipe. I’m happy the Smothered Burritos were a hit!

  10. Dawn says

    Hi Jen,
    I am thinking of making your beef with broccoli recipe for a person who is highly allergic to dairy. I don’t see any dairy in the ingredients, but was wondering if you think it would qualify?
    Thanks so much… It looks delicious.

    • Jen says

      Hi Dawn, yes the Beef and Broccoli is dairy free but you may wish to send them the recipe to check for any other allergies. Best!

  11. Glo Glossop says

    I was a classical musician, currently a daylily hybridizer and have a very creative brain. Creating unusual form daylilies has been my passion for years.. My husband (previous restaurant owner in Colorado) loves flavor lots of it in his food, We live in Florida and so many of the restaurants serve fried frozen selections. Your comment about flavor caught my eye and dedication to perfection is what I would like to be serving my husband and friends.
    Your personal story is amazing and wonderful.
    http://www.FaboulousGulfCoatsLiving.com is my website

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Glo, our creative brains understand each other! If your husband loves, flavor, you are in the right place!

  12. Pat says

    Hello.. I just wanted to say how wonderful your story is and you make some fantastic dishes! I lived in Carlsbad for 9 years now out in Temecula wine area. Looking forward to making your dishes!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Pat, what a small world! My husband’s parents live in Murrieta, so we are always heading your way. I hope you enjoy exploring my site and making my recipes!

  13. Nancy Renfroe says

    Re: French Dip Sandwiches
    Can you use a sirloin roast instead of a Chuck roast?

    • Jen says

      Yes! It a leaner cut so it naturally won’t be as flavorful but still tasty.

  14. Erin Bogan says

    Hi! I love your recipes and wondered if you have a cookbook that I could purchase. Thanks!

    • Jen says

      That’s so sweet, thanks for making my recipes Erin! No plans for a cookbook for now.

  15. Janice says

    Coconut honey lime chicken.

    I am in Canada and was looking to see if I could purchase the type of coconut milk you suggested.
    You said your grocery store stopped suppling it and this is why. It seems it was pulled off more shelves than just your store. I am sure that you do not want to recommend a brand that does this. I am not offended that you recommended this brand but just giving you what I found when trying to buy it. looks like a great recipe and will still try it.

    • Jen says

      Thanks Janice! Yes, that recipe is years old and I had not gotten to updating all of my recipes using coconut milk yet. Just updated!

  16. Gayle says

    Hi Jen
    I love your recipes and recommend your site to everyone. Quick question about Oyster Sauce; what do you recommend as a substitute? Is Soy Sauce ok? My shellfish sensitivity has increased over the years and made it necessary to be even more careful.
    Thank you for all of the additional tips you provide for cooking ahead and freezing. You are truly an inspiration and your recipes help make our goal of eating “clean” with real food even easier and certainly delicious.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your kind comment Gayle and for sharing my site! Soy sauce is an “okay” substitute but you’ll be missing the really rich, complex flavor. Instead I recommend Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce which you can purchase on Amazon. I hope that helps!

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