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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  1. Babb Kaaren says

    I found you, of course, in the Internet while noodling about for something. Now, I’m addicted to your thoughtful recipes, through detailed instructions and most of all, the way these recipes work. My “Italian” daughter (by association only, lives in Carlsbad and is the owner of Gelato Love which has a storefront in Carlsbad Village, and a “lab” Carlsbad Gateway Center. She is Italian, authentic, charming, and makes a very delicious product. Check her out: Paola Richard at Gelato Love.

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your kind words, I’m so pleased you’re loving my recipes! That is such a small world, that your daughter owns Gelato Love in Carlsbad! I LOVE gelato, in fact, my last major trip before Covid was actually to Italy. I will definitely check Gelato Love out this week, thank you!

  2. Jenny says

    I love soooo many of your recipes and a lot of them remind me of my time in SoCal (which I miss) and all the delicious food there! I really loved that white sauce that Rubio’s puts on their fish tacos and I was curious if you happen to have a copy cat recipe or one very similar so I could make my own for fish tacos. I would be forever grateful to you Keep on keepin on with all the yum yum recipes, we love them ♥️

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Jenny for taking the time to comment, I love hearing my recipes remind you of home! I haven’t tried experimenting with Rubio white sauce (but I will!), but a quick google says: 1/2 cup mayonnaise. 1/4 teaspoon cayenne. 1/2 teaspoon cumin. 1/2 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped or 1 teaspoon dill pickle juice.

  3. Alisha Guess says

    Hi Jen!

    I lived in South Carlsbad for 13 years until I moved to Indiana 2 years ago to take care of my parents and 95 year old Grandmother. LOVE LOVE LOVE it there!

    Your story is amazing and inspiring. You and your husband are awesome! Not going to lie I couldn’t help but cry while reading it.

    I also share your love of cooking. Since my husband and I moved here (our 6 kids are grown and all over the US) I have been cooking like crazy, trying anything and everything. I cook for my parents and grandmother 3/4 nights a week and we frequently have guests over and I like to cook foods that they wouldn’t necessarily try out on their own. Tonight I am using your Pad Thai recipe. I have one that is my go to but I have loved all of yours so far so changing it up!

    Keep up the great work! 🙂

    • Jen says

      What a small world Alisha! We love Carlsbad too and my website name is insurance we never leave (I hope!) 😉 Thank you for taking the time to read my story, I’m touched it brought tears to your eyes. You sound like a saint cooking for your family! We must be foodie kindred spirits – I love that you are so adventurous in the kitchen – it keeps cooking, and life, fun! I hope you love the Pad Thai recipe and continue to have fun exploring all of my recipes!

  4. Roy says

    Hello Jen,
    My life took a turn much later in life than yours. In 2007 the doctors removed part of my lung (cancer) and started me on peritoneal dialysis. My kidney transplant occured in 2011. Just wanted to share that others have appreciated the new energy after the transplant.

    So, back to the main reason I am on your website. I found your recipe for pecan/graham cracker pie crust. I used it as a base in a springform pan for a cream based pecan pie (no syrup). The combination worked great for me. Thanks for the recipe.

    • Jen says

      Hi Roy, welcome! I’m so pleased the pecan graham cracker crust was a win! More importantly, I’m grateful you were able to receive a kidney transplant as well – they are miraculous!

  5. Zuri says

    Could you add estimated calorie amounts for the meals? Thank you

  6. Jeff Woiden says

    Hi Jen,

    I’m writing to you from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. We just finished having the Chipotle Lime Shrimp Burrito Bowls. We loved it, and while eating, my wife said, is this another recipe from Carlsbad Cravings? I’ve been making recipes from your site for at least 2 or more years now. I have lost track how many I have made, but my wife loves the fact that I want to do the cooking LOL!!! Your story is amazing and inspirational, and I am so happy to have stumbled across this site when I did. Honestly, it is my go-to site when I want to make something. I said after supper tonight, I just have to send an email to the person who created this site.
    Honestly, we have have tried so many, and they are all terrific. Stay well, stay safe, and thank you so much for sharing your recipes!!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Jeff all the way from Canada! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and make my day! I am honored you have been cooking my recipes for years and that my site is your go-to -that means so much to me. I also love hearing that my recipes make you want to cook – now that says something! Thanks for following along this cooking journey with me and inviting me into your home with my recipes. May God bless you and yours!

  7. Carol Ann says

    Hi there you…. just stopping by in search of a strawberry soup recipe….. read your story and thought …. she loves to create … her recipes are going to be yummy! I’m in!

    • Jen says

      Aw, thanks so much Carol! Creating is the best part! Welcome and enjoy exploring my recipes!

  8. Rick burr says

    First, I have been using your recipes forever!!
    I would also like to thank you for your inspiration through your cystic fibrosis journey. I myself was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis in 2019. January 10th 2021 i received a bilateral lung transplant and doing very well with my recovery. I am finally back cooking and for the most part trying to regain some sense of normal. Thank you again for all you do ❤

    • Jen says

      Thanks for your kind words about my recipes and journey Rick and most importantly, CONGRATULATIONS on your lung transplant! It is a huge surgery so I’m so pleased to hear you’re doing well. I’m sure 2020 has been stressful trying to safe but I’m so encouraged things are looking up. Thank you for following along and I will be praying for your health!

  9. Thomas Tice says

    Wow what a wonderful life story. I stumbled on your site and appreciate your loads of info. I grew up on Los Robles dr, by the power plant, from 1956-62. Still miss it! In NM now, love to cook and incorporate our great New Mexico chilies, red and green. Will use the green w your pork loin roast recipe and can’t wait. Thanks for all

    • Jen says

      Nice to meet you Thomas, what a small world! I don’t know if you heard but they are tearing the power plant down after all these years! Piece by piece it’s coming down, probably another year before it’s completely gone – bittersweet! Anyhoo, welcome to my site and I’m so pleased to hear you appreciate the info! I’ll keep the recipes with chilies coming!

      • Thomas D. Timms says

        Just checking out your site and recipes. Going to try out the Crockpot Honey Garlic Chicken. I see many recipes I want to tryout over time. I also wanted to throw in that one of my cousins help design and build Los Robles power plant. I also read about your treatments and want to say congratulations, it is always great to find another survivor. Transplants are not easy and multiple transplants can be scary. It takes a strong person to endure. Myself, I am a 14 year and two BMTs survivor (cancer). Creating is great therapy not to mention a whole lot of fun. Enough of this, I will keep in touch.

        • Jen says

          Welcome to my site Thomas! Thank you for such a thoughtful comment. It sounds like you are also a fighter, I’m grateful you’re doing well! I completely agree, creativity is so therapeutic and especially rewarding when you get to eat the end result 😉 I hope you love the Honey Garlic Chicken!

  10. christine lounder says

    I am 77 years old and cooking gives me enormous pleasure.
    I live in Adelaide South Australia.

    • Jen says

      Welcome to my site Christine all the way from Australia! I hope you find some fun new recipes to try here!

  11. DeeAnn Greene says

    I found your site from Pinterest. My goodness! I want to try every recipe. It appears that we have similar taste and palates. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jen says

      Welcome to my site DeeAnn! I know how excited it can be to find a foodie kindred spirit! I hope you enjoy exploring my recipes!

  12. jeanne says

    I love your recipes and have used so many of them. I look forward to a new one hitting my email!

    One question—in printing off your recipes, there are always certain ingredients that are very light. Is there a reason for this? I am using some of your recipes for a dinner club that I am hosting and all coming get a copy of recipes. I am having to go in and handwrite the light ingredients because they are very hard to read. I tried changing from Google Chrome to Foxfire to see if it would make a difference but it doesn’t. Just sort of frustrating. Again, so enjoy your recipes and the information you pass on for prep, etc.

    • Jen says

      Hi Jeanne, I think I know what you’re talking about – there is a section to the right of the ingredients that’s “ingredient notes” that must print off lighter. I won’t anything to that from now on. Sorry for the frustration!

  13. Karen says

    I love every recipe I have tried so far! Especially the shredded Mexican chicken! Made the chicken divan for dinner tonight! So good! Would definitely be interested if you had a cookbook to buy! I love your website but can always add another cookbook to the collection!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Karen, I’m so pleased you’re enjoying my recipes! I don’t have plans for a cookbook, but maybe I’ll be talked into it eventually 🙂

  14. W Kuhl says

    Hi There

    Just discovered Carlsbad Cravings. Absolutely love the time and effort you put into each recipe! First effort of mine will be your carne asada tacos. Just bought the meat and will marinate tomorrow am. Can’t wait!!!



    • Jen says

      Welcome to my site Will! I appreciate that you appreciate all the info! I hope the carne asada tacos will be the first of many new favorite CC recipes!

  15. Karl K Schempp says

    Jen, you keep going girl! I love your passion, and attention to detail. This is Karl from Ontario, Canada. I get your emails. I just skimmed your loaded Potatoe Salad recipe, and it looks awesome. I’ll have to try and make it one day. There are probably more than 50 or 100 variations on how to make a cold potatoe salad including the popular plain German one which is different, and which my mom makes. Keep up the good work, and remember – flavour, flavour, flavour – the most important thing, imo. It’s what wins contests.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Karl, I’m so pleased you’re enjoying my recipes and my detailed posts! I couldn’t agree with you more about flavor, I am all about seasonings!

  16. Lynda Wilson says

    Hi Jen, love your recipes. You are such a inspiration. My Grandaughter is 24 and has Cystic Fibrosis. She has been very blessed, lungs look good, no hospital stays and works a 4am to 12:30 shift at work. It is so encouraging that there is hope and life after lung transplants and kidney transplants. God Bless. Can’t wait to try your Carmel pecan dessert.

    • Jen says

      Hi Lynda, thanks for your kind words! What an incredible blessing your granddaughter has been blessed with such great health. There are more tools available everyday for CF individuals so hopefully she’ll never even need transplants! But yes, life is wonderful and such a blessing if needed. I’m so grateful everyday. Sending love and prayers to you and yours! xo

  17. Jennifer Congini says

    I found your food on Pinterest and made your Huli Huli chicken yesterday for Fourth of July (I think this was the best chicken recipe I have ever made—sorry Thomas Keller, yours is now #2). Anyhow, tears came to my eyes when I began to read your story, as my name is Jennifer, I’m from Carlsbad, my ex is named Patrick, and his younger brother had CF. We were very close, and close with his siblings. I’m overjoyed to hear about your successful transplants and how you are thriving. Your food is very inspired and a testament to your journey. I can’t wait to try more of your recipes! Health and happiness to you and your family. Jen and Lance (now in Temecula)

    • Jen says

      Welcome to my site Jennifer, I’m honored the huli huli was one of the best chicken recipes you’ve ever made! As I continued to read your comment, tears came to MY eye – I can’t believe the coincidences! We even pass through Temecula on our way to to my husband’s Parent’s house in Murrieta! I’m so sorry for the loss of Patrick’s brother, I’m sure he and my brother are buddies in heaven xo. My lung transplant was a life saving miracle and I am so grateful to my donors everyday. Thank you for reaching out and for your kind words, I hope you enjoy exploring my recipes!

  18. Tanya says

    Your Facebook account appears to be hacked! Someone keeps posting nonsensical stuff and other people’s personal FB pages, in between your recipe posts. You’ll probably want to change your password at the very least! Good luck!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much, I’ll check it out right now!

  19. Kristi Brower says

    I love your recipes!!! I am looking for the homemade spaghetti and meatballs in the skillet recipe?! The sauce was to die for and I can’t seem to find it anywhere??

  20. Vanessa says

    I love your recipes, and your personal story touches my heart. I’m very glad to have found you and look forward to cooking more with you.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for your kind message Vanessa. I’m honored you’ve read my story xo. I wish we could could alongside each other for realz!

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