Scared of trying a new recipe? Not quite sure how to make a cake without a boxed mix? Unsure of what to do when you get halfway through a recipe and realize that you’re missing two key ingredients? All of us have done something similar before, and we might as well admit to our mini-mistakes now. If you want any hope of getting comfortable with cooking and baking, you should consider throwing caution to the wind — or maybe some salt over your shoulder — and accept your previous kitchen mishaps so you can learn to use them to your advantage.

After testing and developing recipes for Nightly Noms over the past two years and cooking in a college environment where my mom’s kitchen is not at my disposal, I’ve experienced plenty of miniature disasters. From not being able to melt chocolate without its seizing up to realizing that you need an8x8 baking pan when you only have a 12×6 , you are bound to face both large and small cooking conundrums. Each small mishap that I have encountered since my college cooking days commenced, however, has forced me to become resourceful with what I have on hand. I’m not here to tell you how to bake; I’m here to give you some basic knowledge, random tips and fun recipes that will hopefully make you more comfortable in the kitchen and give you the ability to cook properly in a college environment with an improvisational flare.

If you’re looking to impress your friends, have something delicious and a bit healthy to snack on, and if you don’t want to spend a small fortune at Godiva, chocolate-covered fruit is a tasty option. The cool freshness of the fruit mixes with the smooth, rich chocolate to create a delicious substitute to plain fruit salad or a gigantic slice of chocolate cake. Still, chocolate-covered anything is easier said than done. While some may have luck with melting chocolate in the microwave, if you try melting large amounts of chocolate or become careless, you will soon open your microwave door to find that your chocolate has a grainy consistency, which means it has seized up.

Basically, there are two preferred ways to melt chocolate. If you’re new to working with the substance, the microwave or a small pot with a bit of butter is your best option.

If you’re using the microwave, make sure to start melting in 20-second intervals and then gradually microwave less as you see the chocolate melting. You really only need to melt until about 80 percent of the chips or chunks of chocolate are melted, since at that point the heat from the already-melted chocolate will take care of the rest.

If you’re using your stovetop, make sure you keep the heat on low when you first place your pot on the stove.

Disclaimer: If there’s one thing you need to know about melting chocolate, it’s that water and too much heat are your enemies.

Remember, cooking and baking are as much about exact measurements and gaining control of kitchen chaos as being creative and taking risks. So push yourself to try something new!

Elizabeth Sabol-Jones is a junior in the College. Culinary Quips appears every other Friday in the guide.

How to: Melt Chocolate

1. Use either two pots, or a bowl and a pot, and place the smaller on top of the other. Fill the bottom pot with enough water to maintain a steady boil, but be cautious that the boiling water does not touch the bowl above it.

2. Turn on the flame to low/medium, add part of your chocolate and a bit of butter. The butter helps temper the chocolate while it melts; however, in most cases, butter is not necessary, so you can decide whether to add it.

3. Keep stirring to help distribute heat evenly and continue adding chocolate as the melting process continues.

4. Stir mixture on-and-off until chocolate melts, remove from heat and either begin dipping fruit or combining with another mixture or batter.

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