Willow Arlen, August 15th 2014, small file-1

Hello, and welcome to my kitchen! I’m Willow — writer, photographer, and lover of food.

Cooking for people has always been a passion of mine. Nothing makes me happier than full bellies and smiling faces, hence the title of this blog: Will Cook For Friends. (That would be you.)

Whether you’re new to cooking, or a seasoned chef, I hope you’ll find inspiration as you read through these pages. If this is your first time here, welcome! The best place to get started is by clicking the banner up at the top of the page — that will bring you to my most recent posts and recipes. Or, you can browse through the recipe index above, or use the search bar over to the right if you’re looking for something specific. Or just read on to learn more about me!

My Philosophy

“I cook my daughter breakfast every day… no one will feed you as well as somebody who loves you. I believe that. I believe there’s a tangible, transferable value of love in cooking for people” — Alton Brown

I believe food is more than just sustenance, it is nourishment for every level of our being. My favorite thing in the whole world is bringing people together around food, sharing recipes, and making new memories. You’ll find a wide range of recipes here (some healthy, some not-so), but they all have this one shared theme: they are made from scratch, with whole, healthful ingredients. With so many pre-made meals, packaged products, and fast-food options, cooking from scratch is a dying art… and I want to help bring it back!

I love being adventurous in the kitchen. There isn’t a recipe you can throw at me that I won’t want to try, or a flavor combination I won’t want to taste. And if there’s something to be made from scratch, I’m all over it. (Homemade puff pastry? Challenge accepted!)

At the same time, I am a huge fan of simplicity. I believe fresh fruits should never be tampered with (much), and some of the best flavors are the ones that have been left exactly as they are.

No matter what I’m making, I try to use fresh, natural ingredients whenever possible. I believe good food doesn’t come from the kitchen, it comes from the Earth, first. This is something you will find again and again in my recipes, where I often encourage you to use the best ingredients available to you. Quality ingredients may come with a higher price, but using them when you can will help make any recipe the best it can be.

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces — just good food from fresh ingredients.” — Julia Child

What I’m not: I am not a professional chef, and I did not go to a formal culinary school. I’m entirely self-taught (in the kitchen, and behind the camera). I’ve been developing recipes ever since I was a teenager, when I first discovered a love of cooking for those around me. My passion for cooking came, in no small part, from reading food blogs just like this one. My number one goal is to inspire others to get in the kitchen, and get cooking, no matter their skill level. I know it can be intimidating, but I promise I am here for you!

What I am: an avid home cook, lover of salads and desserts equally, and total geek. If you follow me on facebook, you’ve probably already figured out that last part. Besides writing about food, I also share the occasional anecdote about my dog, Neko (you can read about when we adopted him, here) and my totally awesome husband and hand-model (you’ll often see him pouring sauces or holding things in my photos), who goes by T-Hubs here on the blog.

the three of us, web ready-1

“You are the butter to my bread, and the breath to my life.” — Julia Child

Feeding my Appetite for Knowledge

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Besides the giddy excitement I get from serving up delicious eats to my friends and family (and sharing those recipes here with you), I also fell in love with cooking because of how much there is to learn about food science. Have you ever wondered why egg whites whip best at room temperature, or how baking powder and baking soda work? I have. 

At the beginning of 2013, I started a blog series called “FAK Fridays” (short for “Feeding my Appetite for Knowledge, and also an incredibly lame nod to the term FAQ). My goal was to write about some aspect of food and cooking you might not already know about, and share it each week, for the entire year. I met my goal, and learned a lot along the way, but one of the biggest lessons I learned was that one week was not enough time to tackle many of the bigger subjects I wanted to delve into (like how tempering chocolate works, or how different cooking methods effect flavor). So at the beginning of 2014, I dropped the FAK series, and now try to share my passion for learning and food science whenever I can, with no deadlines to limit me.

You can find all of my FAK posts, as well as other tips, tutorials, and more, in the “Tips & Tutorials” tab at the top of the page. And if you have any suggestions for topics you’d like to learn more about, feel free to shoot me an e-mail over on the contact page. I love to hear from you and get inspired by your ideas!


Let’s Be Friends!

Vanilla Ice Cream

“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” – Julia Child

One of the things that makes food so wonderful isn’t just that we eat it, and it is delicious, but that we share it. In that sense, it is so much more than just food. It’s good times, and happiness, and friendship. Food brings people together, across tables, across continents, and yes, across the internet.

I have met some of the greatest people, who I am honored to call my friends, through blogging about food. We’re talking honest-to-goodness, real life friendships, pulled together by a mutual love of homemade ice cream and chocolate dipped marshmallows, and the powers of a long series of ones and zeros.

If I could dine with each and every one of you, my life would be complete. Until then, let’s be friends! If you want to get to know me better, you can follow me on facebook, twitter, and pinterest (and g+, which I promise I’m trying to get the hang of), or you can shoot me an e-mail over on my contact page. I read each and every one, and I can’t wait to hear from you!



Behind The Scenes

Behind The Scenes, web ready-1

I get a lot of questions asking about what camera equipment I use, and how I set up my shots. Here’s the run down on what I use:

As of January 2014, I shoot with a Canon 70D. Prior to that, I used an old Canon t1i. My favorite lenses to shoot with are a 50mm, a 17-55mm zoom, and a 100mm macro for detailed shots.

I prefer to shoot hand-held when I can, but my Manfrotto tripod has saved my skin on many occasions when the light isn’t good enough to hold the camera steady by hand. It also allows me to get my hands in the scene, using either the timer function, or my absolute favorite camera accessory, a remote shutter release.

Most of my photos are taken in front of a large glass door in my living room, where lots of natural light comes in. Depending on how I want the shot to look, I will use a white reflector to bounce light back onto the side of the food and fill in shadows, or I might use a black board to absorb light, and keep the shadows moody. No matter what the photo, though, I never, ever tamper with the food. Everything you see here is the real deal — no fake ice cream or meat glazed with motor oil, like what you see in commercial food photography — everything is 100% edible, and 100% delicious. I think food is prettier au naturel, anyway.

If you’re brave enough to travel back to my earliest posts, you’ll see a big change in my photography between then and now. A big part of taking better photos was learning to manipulate the light I was using to highlight the food. I’ve grown a lot over the last three years, and there’s still so much to learn. Seeing that improvement, and knowing there’s always more ahead, is part of what I love about photography.

Besides food photography, I’ve also dabbled in pet photography, portraiture, and even modeling… sort of. You can find my series of fruit and veggie self portraits (yes, you read that right), by clicking on the tab at the top of the page titled “Selfies.”

This page contains affiliate links. This means if you click on a link and make a purchase, even if it isn’t the item mentioned, I will receive a small percentage (at no extra cost to you). This helps support this blog, and make it possible for me to bring you tasty recipes! I only link to products I personally use, or would recommend to my own friends and family. I am not paid to include links to particular items or brands, so all opinions are my own.