The One Dedicated to Food and Tom Cruise

And there's a recipe at the end of this post.

My children are Food Network junkies, which isn't surprising if you consider the cartoonish drama purposely woven through the narrative of shows like Cupcake Wars and Iron Chef America. The result of their addiction is a positive one--well, at least in my book. At the tender ages of 8 and nearly 10, my children are budding "foodies."

Please note that the glass of red wine in this pic belonged to me
and not my kid! He's a budding foodie, not wine-o.
When my husband Dave and I  travel with the kids, we try to incorporate the local food scene into the itinerary. So a trip to a museum could be followed by lunch at a white table cloth restaurant that sometimes does not have a kids' menu. My kids used to roll their eyes when we would announce the day's food destination because "nice places to eat" means  they must have table manners or else suffer my wrath. But now they know better. They know that "nice places to eat" also means they are getting the good stuff. So the idea of using utensils, of having a napkin on their laps, of not burping out loud or chewing with their mouths open or talking loudly, is but a mild nuisance in the pursuit of an epicurean delight.

While there may be typical kid food on the menu, there is always a twist. For example, during our recent trip to San Francisco we made a pilgrimage to Alice Water's Chez Panisse. My son Mack had a pizza (typical kid fare) topped with a sunny side egg. The photo above is Mack prior to devouring his pizza. If the darn thing didn't cost $20, I would have ordered him a second. (That boy sure can eat.) My daughter Masana ordered the meatballs and spaghetti (again, typical kid fare). But when her dish came to the table, the meatballs had walnuts in them and the sauce was a green pesto. She initially gave her plate the skeptical once over. After a shrug, she gamely bit into a meatball, smiled, and gave me a thumbs up.

All their travel food experiences have translated into fun dinners at home. I made pizza for dinner the other day and guess what Mack requested for his toppings? Pepperoni, basil,  and a sunny side egg. When I served it, I got a round of applause! Oh, Alice Waters. I love you.

Okay, now on to a more personal television-related food experience.

I've been watching a lot of television lately, especially after everyone has gone to bed. And the programming gods of cable have bestowed a gift to me that's better than a food show. They have given me Tom Cruise. Jerry Maguire, Minority Report, and Far and Away...

Far and Away. While I admit that Tom's Irish brogue is anything but lilting, I find his on-screen presence to be mesmerizing. Or maybe it's the size of his biceps.

I've seen pieces of Far and Away almost every night for the past 7 days and it has inspired frequent dreams of potatoes. And Tom. And Tom on a bed of potatoes (oh, dear).

Being a middle aged suburban mom, I will cease providing readers of my blog with salacious visuals and turn to culinary expression. Below is my latest potato dish, inspired by these late-night Tom Cruise dreams--with an occasional bare-chested boxing scene.

Tom Cruise's Twice Baked Potatoes

3 large potatoes
8 strips of pork or turkey bacon, chopped small
1/2 large onion diced 
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 cup finely chopped spinach
1 small carrot, finely grated
4 tablespoons Irish butter
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Poke holes and cut slits into the potatoes and lightly brush with olive oil. Arrange potatoes on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

2. Remove potatoes from the oven and let them cool. Set aside.

3. In a medium size skillet cook the bacon. Remove the bacon from the pan and drain excess fat by place it on a paper towel lined plate. Set aside.

4. In the same skillet (and using the bacon fat) cook the onions until it reaches a golden brown color, about 10 minutes. Add add garlic, spinach, and carrots. Saute for an additional 10 minutes. Turn off heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter is melted, then add the bacon. Stir until mixed then set aside.

5. In a large mixing bowl, place the cooked potatoes and mash them (include the skin if you want). Add the bacon mixture from the skillet into the mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.

(If you are not ready to serve the potatoes, wrap the mixing bowl with cellophane and place in the fridge. Can stay in the fridge up to 24 hours. Remove two hours prior to baking and preheat oven to 350 degrees.)

5. Mix 1 1/4 cups of the grated cheese into the potato mixture. Take out six 10-14 ounce ceramic ramekins or ceramic dishes and fill them equally with the potato mixture. Use the remaining cheese to top each ramekin. Place all the ramekins on a baking sheet and place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove and serve hot.