My favorite tips for success in the kitchen:
(aka ways I've failed miserably in the past and how I've learned to redeem myself)
1. Always use fresh ingredients, the fresher the better. Especially spices.
2. When finding new recipes (this is important!), I always look on the Food Network website or Epicurious. I ONLY try five star (or four spoon) recipes I also read the comments for user suggestions--most of them have great ideas. I love recipes that have fancy cheese like gruyere, marscapone, or brie--then I know they will have a nice flavor! DO NOT randomly try recipes from sites that do not have a way for customers to rate them (like cooks.com). The majority of the time, the recipes are unprofessional postings and will not work out! Don't waste your time trying a dozen recipes on those types of sites only to find one good one. Also, cookbooks by known gourmands like any chefs from the Food Network or Nordstrom, etc. will also have guaranteed good recipes.
3. Always use whole milk and real butter! Margarine and skim milk will NOT have the same results.
4. Make your cooking time enjoyable! I like to listen to music or catch up on my TV shows.
5. Read all the recipe ingredients and instructions thoroughly before hand.
6. Take the extra moments to make your food presentation nice. Your guests will be awed and you will be proud of yourself!