Necessary Pleasures in the Kitchen

Tanya Ott and Jason Fulmore and their daughters make cooking a family affair.

Photography by Beau Gustafson

Tanya Ott with her daughters Miranda, Olivia and Hannah

The kitchen at Tonya Ott’s home is more than a room, it is a teachable moment. “The kids have always helped out in the kitchen, but began cooking in earnest about three years ago. We view the kitchen as an incredible teaching opportunity,” according to Ott, news director at WBHM. “By having them actively participate in menu planning, shopping, and food prep the kids have not only expanded the number of foods they’re willing to try, but they’ve also learned the value of a dollar and reinforced their reading and math skills. We talk with them about how to adjust recipes (halving them, quartering them, etc).

“We also talk a lot about food choices (organic -vs- conventional; local -vs- non-local; humanely raised -vs- factory farmed) and how our choices in the kitchen have an impact on the environment,” Ott says. “We’re a paperless kitchen—no paper towels or disposable plates. Instead, we use cloth towels or napkins for every meal. We also try to eat only humanely-raised, antibiotic-free meat.”

The lessons have moved from the real world to the virtual world in the form of a food blog the family started this year.

They started Necessary Pleasures ( in January 2011 after prompting from Facebook friends who kept asking them for recipes and cooking tips. “We figured blogging would also be a great way to share our philosophy on food and the importance of including kids in the process,” Ott says. “It’s amazing how some of Miranda’s friends don’t know the first thing about how to feed themselves. They’re heading off to college in two years and can barely boil water!”

Since launching the blog, Olivia and Hannah have started their own special projects. “Olivia (our adventurous eater) is cooking her way A to Z through the countries of the world. So far she’s planned and cooked meals from Afghanistan, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Ethiopia, and France. She researches the country and writes a blog post about what she learns.

“Hannah (our picky eater) is cooking her way A to Z through the vegetables and fruits. She’s tackled asparagus, bananas, coconut, cucumber, stinging nettles, and figs. And surprise, she actually likes some of them!

“Miranda is really busy with high school and theatre, so she doesn’t cook nearly as much but when she does it’s usually baking. She’s a great baker!,” Ott says.

The recipe Ott shares comes from husband Jason Fulmore’s family in Utah.

Mozzarella Chicken

Mozzarella Chicken


6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (from Springer Mountain Farms)

3 heaping tbsp of All Purpose Flour

2 heaping tbsp of Parmesan Cheese

1 egg

a little water (not much at all)

12 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced (the more the better in our family)

6 slices of Mozzarella Cheese

Salt and Pepper (much more pepper than salt)

Olive Oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet)

Combine the egg and water (you can use milk, but if you want to cut down on the calories a little water works just as well) in one bowl and the parmesan, flour and salt and pepper in another bowl.

Heat oil in the skillet—on high. Meanwhile, drag the chicken breast through the egg mixture and then directly into the flour mixture.

Once the skillet is warm add all of the chicken. Cook on one side 4-5 minutes, then flip and cook again 4-5 minutes (depending on the thickness of the breasts). The goal is to get the chicken mostly cooked through with a nice crispy outer layer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pull chicken off and put the breasts in the glass baking dish.  Add the mushrooms to the skillet and saute for about 2-3 minutes.

Take mushrooms out of skillet and layer them on top of chicken breasts in baking dish. Top each breast with a slice of cheese.

Bake, covered, for about 20 minutes. Remove the cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow meat to rest on counter for 5 – 10 minutes before serving.

(We served ours with wild and brown rice, steamed broccoli and sliced strawberries, apples and blueberries.) •

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