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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586 Comments

  1. Liana says

    God bless you darling girl. I have only tried one recipe and we loved it. Thanks for quoting Dieter F. Uchtdorf and not surprising me that you are one of the clan, as my friend calls it! Looking forward to lots of yummy stuff and sending your link to friends.
    Best,
    Liana, Palo Alto, my brother lives in Escondito!

    • Jen says

      Thank you Liana, and welcome to my site! I hope you enjoy exploring more of my recipes – and thank you for sharing with your friends!

    • Grace Ann says

      This is why I’m hesitant to PIN recipes .. I’m interested in the recipe that caught my attention, not your love story, how it all began from humble beginnings, or see personal pics of your family and pets … if I was interested in all that, I’d reach out with a friend request .. here we are and no recipe to be found.

      • Jen says

        Not sure what you’re referring to Grace Ann, as my website has thousands of recipes. Each recipe has a “jump to recipe” button at the top of each post so you can skip directly to the recipe.

  2. Pat says

    I just wanted to tell you that for our 4th of July dinner I served your steak kabobs and your strawberry spinach salad. Added a nice couscous dish. Everyone loved both dishes!!

    • Jen says

      I love hearing that, thank yo so much Pat!

  3. Sue Dingee says

    Jen I am looking for your salmon wellington recipe but can no longer can find it on your site. I am hoping to serve this as a company dinner. Thank you,

    • Jen says

      Hi Sue, I don’t have a salmon wellington recipe, must be another site, sorry!

  4. Laurie says

    I just made your pork carnitas and they we a HUGE hit. The flavors were delicious!!!! We put the meat in a cheese shell with homemade pickled onions. Was ridiculously so good! Thanks for all of your recipes. I have been following you for a while and I have yet to make something that we didn’t like….keep the great recipes coming!!!

    Thank you,
    Laurie Diaz

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for making my day Laurie! I’m so pleased you loved these carnitas and honored you have loved all of my recipes so far!

  5. Tina says

    We made your pork carnitas today. It was great to pop in the slow cooker before work. Supper time made easy! They were FABULOUS!! Definitely will make again. Actually I think this was the third time and they did not disappoint. Keeping warm in the oven for our son who is working until 10 pm and I am sure there will be nothing left!

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Tina, I’m so pleased the carnitas are a repeat favorite! Your son will will be grateful :)!

  6. Jannell says

    Thank you for your blog. I found you through Instagram. I was going to tell you how impressed I am with your work, then I noticed, Uchtdorf’s quote. So glad I found your blog. I am an LDS member from St. George, UT. I saved about 15 of your recipes before I found out more about you. Keep up the great work!!!!! (I am also, a nurse). I look forward to learning more about your work. Way to go!!!

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for your kind words Jannell! We love St. George and have so many friends who have moved there, beautiful area! It sounds like we have similar cooking styles/palate, so I’m excited for you to start trying my recipes!

  7. Lauren says

    do you have a cookbook for purchase or online recipes only?

  8. Colleen Reisener says

    I have made your wonderful frittata recipe several times. I wondered about adding some frozen shredded hash browns. Have you ever tried that? Not sure if I would prepare the hash browns before adding to the frittata with the other vegetables. Any suggestions or would it be better to parboil and give some potatoes instead?

    • Jen says

      Hi Colleen, that would be delicious! Yes, I would prepare them completely/separately before adding so they don’t release any liquid. Please let me know how it turns out!

  9. Karen says

    I often make your recipes and my family always enjoy them. I was bragging about you the other day to hubby and told him that not only are you creative and talented in the kitchen but how sweet you are when you respond to a reader’s comment. He suggested that I tell you and I agree! So thank you Jen for not only being in the kitchen with me when I’m preparing one of your delicious recipes, but being so very kind to all of us! xo

    • Jen says

      You are so thoughtful Karen, thank you for making my day! I’m honored you’re enjoying my recipes and humbled you appreciate my comments. Thank you for inviting me/my recipes into your home xo

  10. Colleen Reisener says

    I contacted you recently about possibly adding frozen hash browns to your wonderful frittata recipe and I wanted to let you know how it turned out. I always prep and freeze the vegetables ahead of time but did the hash browns right before assembling everything. As the hash browns drained on paper towel, I warmed up the other vegetables. In addition to the bacon, I add crumbled breakfast sausage. Then I added the potatoes and remaining ingredients. It was a delicious addition and everyone loved it.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for sharing Coleen, that sounds delicious! I’m sure other readers will find your method helpful as well!

  11. Jon says

    I just want to say that this is the best food blog site ive ever found. Its so well organized, and the recipes are solid. I mean really, i made both the slow cooker barbacoa, and the hunagrian goulash by splitting a 3lb chuck roast between the two. They are both just fantastic! I willbe making a lot more of your recipes, really you should be proud of what you made. Great execution start to finish.

    • Jen says

      Wow Jon, thank you so much for taking the time to make my day! I’m honored you are loving my site and my recipes. I work hard for readers to have a great experience, so comments like yours are so rewarding!

  12. Patricia Fisher says

    Hello, I’ve tried a few of your recipes and they are delicious. I’ve shared your link with some of my friends. I’ve been following you a few years now and I love how you write about each recipe. Makes me want to make them all. Thank you for all you do.

    • Jen says

      Thank you for you kind comment Patricia and for sharing my website! I’m so pleased you find the information helpful!

  13. Jeanne says

    Hi Jen, I live in AZ now (formerly NorCal). My daughter rented us a beach house last week in Carlsbad (4th year in a row) and just love your city. After returning home,I was searching for a Chicken Stew recipe and came a crossed your recipe. I made it last night and was so impressed with the flavors, it was delicious. I started browsing your beautifully laid-out website of recipes and can’t wait to try more of them. I saw your list of favorite spices and I have ALL of them!

    Thank you!!

    • Jen says

      Hi Jeanne, how fun you got to vacation in Carlsbad – it really is a gem! Welcome to my site, I’m so pleased you loved the stew! It’s a small taste of what’s to come so I’m so excited for you to try more of my recipes!

  14. Ileann O'Donnell says

    I just recently discovered this website, and was captivated by Jen’s incredible and inspiring story (still on-going, I hope). In an effort to cope with, and fight, chronic kidney disease progressing faster than my doctor expected, I have become frankly obsessive about a lowest possible sodium diet. It was this search that brought me to Carlsbad Cravings. (That, and the name, as I grew up in San Diego and lived in Carlsbad for a few years.) I wanted to ask, though, about a number of recipes I see on this site that mention salt or soy sauce or other high sodium Asian sauces. How low sodium are most of the recipes, and do the recipes have a nutritional analysis so one can calculate the amount of various minerals one takes in?

    • Jen says

      Hi Ileann, thank you so much for reading my story and for your kind words! May God bless you in your own journey! xo Unfortunately, this site doesn’t follow any specific dietary guidelines so yes there are recipes higher in sodium like you mentioned. You can calculate the nutritional breakdown here: https://www.myfitnesspal.com/recipe/calculator

  15. Barclay says

    Love all your recipes, any chance you can add photo to the print page, I always like a visuals when I’m digging through recipes, if it looks good I’m definitely gonna cook it. Just a suggestion. Keep up the good work. Thanks

    • Jen says

      Thanks for making my recipes Barclay! Yes, you have the option to print it with or without a photo. Click the box above the title that says “recipe image” and a picture will appear.

  16. Melissa Roy says

    Hi Jen. We just love your website. We have tried over 30 recipes and have loved them all. Every time I am cooking, my ten year old son asks if it is a recipe from “our girl”.

    He has helped with several of your recipes and has had so much fun cooking with me. Thanks for sharing your talent with us and you are a true inspiration.

    • Jen says

      Wow, I am honored you have made so many of my recipes and loved them, thank you Melissa! I love the thought of you and your son cooking together, so sweet and so many precious memories he’ll treasure. Please tell him I say hi and I’m proud of his cooking!

  17. Sheila Capito says

    I am new to your blog. I love your style of cooking. I have been scratch cooking for many years and I love to follow new recipes for inspiration. Thank you for sharing with us!

    • Jen says

      My pleasure, thank you so much for following along! I’m excited for you to try my recipes!

  18. Liz says

    I just tried my first recipe from your site- tomato basil soup. It was marvelous! I will definitely be trying more.
    Thank you so much and good luck on your continued journey.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much Liz, I’m so pleased you loved it! I hope you enjoy exploring my site and discover many new favorites!

  19. Carlo J Bertolino says

    Good morning,
    I made your Pork Medallions with Mushroom Gravy with a slight modification by reducing some of the Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce adding homemade dried porcini mushroom powder for the umami flavor. The meal was exquisite I loved your recipe.

    • Jen says

      Sounds fabulous! I’m so pleased you loved it!

  20. John says

    Stumbled on to your recipe for on a search for Albondigas soup. Props for addiing the chayotes.

    Your story is inspiring. Thank you and congratulations for all your victories.

    And thanks for having a great easy to navigate website with lots of great recipes

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for your congrats and kind words John! I am so grateful to be alive and doing what I love! I hope you enjoy the Albondigas Soup!

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