When trying a new recipe, experience has taught me to stick with the tried-and-true instructions.

We’ve all done it. Praised a meal or dessert, then begged for the recipe from a friend, family member or co-worker. Then, when we try the recipe ourselves, it just doesn't turn out the same. Sometimes, it's a complete kitchen disaster and we're left to ask one question: Why couldn't I get it right?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you attempt to successfully reproduce that perfect dish and sidestep culinary disappointments.

• In an attempt to replicate the recipe, we tweak it. Even small tweaks can make a big difference in how the dish turns out. Sometimes, we fall prey to the thought, "I wonder how it would taste if I just added a little ...." It's OK to personalize a dish or meal, but you can overdo it, especially when trying a new recipe. When you're attempting a new dish, stick to the directions.

• Maybe we lack all the ingredients or want to save money and decide to sustitute. If a recipe lists butter, don't use margarine. Let’s say you want to re-create a gooey, scrumptious chocolate bar a friend brought to a birthday gathering. While the recipe calls for semi-sweet chocolate, you substitute milk chocolate, which is all you’ve got in the pantry. Or, you fell in love with your sister-in-law’s biscuits and gravy dished up at a family reunion. Of course, the recipe calls for buttermilk (which you don’t have) so you substitute whole milk. Then, you scratch your head and wonder why it didn’t taste or look exactly like the original.

• Or maybe we try a shortcut that seems obvious, even though it’s found nowhere in the instructions. Beware of shortcuts! They seldom work, and then you're stuck: You either start all over or serve up a meal that's less than what you hoped for.

The following recipe is a prime example of why you should resist the temptation to substitute or cut corners. I’ve tried it multiple ways, and my attempts haven’t had a happy ending. I always go back to preparing this recipe step-by-simple-step. No shortcuts allowed. Your second-grade teacher was right: Follow directions. Or pay the consequences.

Remember, these are rules for attempting a recipe for the first or second time. Maybe after you’ve mastered it, you can stray a little from the recipe. Let’s face it, part of the fun in cooking and collecting recipes is with repetition you can fine-tune a dish to suit your taste buds. But in the beginning, experience has taught me to stick with the tried-and-true instructions. When it comes out just right and people ask you for your recipe, you’ll understand that it was worth all the effort.

From my kitchen to yours, buon appetito.

Orzo and Rice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/3 cup orzo pasta, uncooked

1 cup rice, uncooked

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1/4 cup water

fresh cracked pepper

Parmesan cheese

slivered almonds, optional

In a small frying pan, heat olive oil on medium setting. Add orzo pasta and saute 4-5 minutes or until golden brown. Stir well to keep from burning.

In a large saucepan, bring rice, chicken broth and water to a boil, then reduce heat to lowest setting.

Add sauteed orzo and olive oil mixture into large saucepan. Give it all a good stir, then cover with lid. Let simmer about 20 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off stove and let the covered pan sit for 15-20 minutes. Fight the urge to stir until serving time. Garnish with remaining ingredients to taste. Serves 4- 6.

— "Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook" by Shannon M. Smurthwaite

Shannon M. Smurthwaite is a Southern California native. The mother of four children, she and her husband, Donald, reside in Idaho. She is the author of "Mormon Mama Italian Cookbook." Website: Email: