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Sweet & sour meatballs at Riverview Jr. High Dutch Oven Cook-Off

My first memory of Dutch oven cooking was with my family when I was 8 years old. We were camped just west of Monticello at Buck Board Flats. My father had been raised on Dutch oven cooking as that is how they prepare their food when they were with their father at sheep camp.

Dad was baking sour dough biscuits on this camping trip. As he lifted the lid you could catch the incredible smell of the sour dough biscuits that were 3 inches high and golden brown on the top. I remember reaching into the oven and pulling out a biscuit. I broke it apart and then spread a little butter and honey over the steaming biscuit and then took my first bite. I know it was at that moment that I fell in love with outdoor cooking.

Cooking in a Dutch oven was just a way of life at our house. Dad's beef stew was another of our favorites. I learned that anything that you can cook indoors you can cook in a Dutch oven outdoors.

I went on to become one of the first judges of the World Dutch Oven Cook-off. As many of you know my career took me to becoming the lifestyle editor of the NBC Today Show. It was on one of the food editor trips that I met Betsy Balsley, food editor of the Los Angels Times. I pitched a story about Dutch oven cooking to her and she came to Logan that fall to write about the World Dutch Cook-off. To all of our amazement she went back to LA and wrote an eight-page story for the Times. I later talked to her and she said, "I wrote so much about Dutch ovens because I thought it was a great story."

Dutch Ovens come in every size from, small to extra large. They are numbered on the top of the oven from eight to 16. They are very easy to cook in. If you are planning to cook outdoor in a Dutch oven, buy one with three legs on the bottom and a flat lid. If you will be frying in it, set the oven on a bed of coals. Watch the food and if it is cooking to quickly spread out the coals.

For baking you will be backing you need coal on the top as well as underneath. To create a 325 to 350 degree oven check the number on lid and use this formula for the number of coal. If the number is 10 then subtract three and put seven hot coals under the oven. Then add the three from the bottom to the 10 on the top giving you 13 on top of the oven. Use this same formula any size Dutch oven and you will soon be turning out delicious meals.

Get out your Dutch oven or pick one up for delicious meal and fun memories.

TV personality and author Dian Thomas shares her journey of weight loss, exercise and life on the run every other Wednesday in the Deseret News and at www.DianThomas.com. Her weekly blog also runs Mondays at www.deseretnews.com and she takes tour groups to China. Contact her at www.dianthomas.com.