Spaghetti Tacos with Chocolate Mini Meatballs



I hear from a lot of parents that want creative and nutritious cooking ideas for their children. Sometimes making food creative for kids is as simple as giving it a catchy name and the kids will try it-“silly sandwiches”, “wacky waffles”, etc. But for most parents its not that simple, and telling their kids that they plan to serve them “Bodacious Brocolli” will get them laughed right out of the kitchen.

For me, its more important to create meals for kids that look fun, taste great and pack in nutrition (usually without the kids even noticing-see my recipe for beet cupcakes). There is a Nickelodeon show called iCarly and on the show, her older brother/guardian made her Spaghetti Tacos. This of course was meant to be a joke and the kids thought it was hilarious. But guess what? Something happened that no one saw coming, it got kids excited about eating Spaghetti and Tacos and it sparked moms across the country to start making their own versions with their kids. A win-win in my book.

Recently the New York Times caught wind of this phenomenon spreading across the country and featured the children and moms that are making this dish. On October 18, 2010, I was asked to cook on Twin Cities Live with Marjorie Johnson whom I’ve mentioned here before. She is a phenomenal baker and I thought it would be fun to make a dish that features my creative cooking and something she could do with her grandkids. My version combines elements of Mexican and Italian cooking-olive oil, tomatoes, peppers, cumin, enchilada sauce and even cocoa. Cocoa?!? you say, well as an inspiration from Mexican Mole Sauce, I decided to add a little bit of cocoa, which helps to sweeten the meat, and remember what I said about how naming food can spark interest? How do you think your kids will respond when you tell them you are having Chocolate Mini Meatballs-I think you’ll be the one laughing when they start gobbling up these spinach meatballs! Enjoy and have fun with your kids in the kitchen!

Click here to watch the October 18, 2010 episode of Twin Cities Live when I made this recipe.

Ingredients
1 box Ronzoni Smart Taste Spaghetti
2 TB Olive Oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 1/3 cup Yellow Onion(finely chopped), divided
2 Green Peppers (finely chopped)
28 ounce can Crushed Tomatoes
10 ounce can Mild Enchilada Sauce
1.25 lb Ground Turkey
10 ounce package Frozen Chopped Spinach (defrosted and drained)
2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 TB Sweetened Cocoa
2 eggs (beaten)
½ cup breadcrumbs
Taco Shells (Yellow or Blue, Prepared according to package directions)

Garnishes:
Mixed Lettuce
Avocado
Cheese (I like Queso Fresco)
Salsa (I made a Strawberry Roasted Red Pepper Salsa)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.

Prepare spaghetti according to package directions, drain and set aside.

In a stockpot, over medium heat, add olive oil. Once oil has heated, add minced garlic, 1 cup of finely chopped yellow onion and green peppers and sauté until softened. Add crushed tomatoes and enchilada sauce and reduce heat to low. You can make the sauce smooth by using an immersion blender before serving. Add cooked pasta to the sauce and keep warm until ready to serve.

In a large bowl, combine turkey, 1/3 cup of finely chopped yellow onion, spinach, cumin and cocoa. Mix ingredients and add beaten eggs, then add bread crumbs and mix until combined. Using a Tablespoon as a measure, scoop meatball mixture and then divide in half and roll into mini meatballs. Place mini meatballs on 2 cookie sheets lined with foil, sprayed with nonstick spray. There will be 88 chocolate mini meatballs. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Let children assemble their own tacos or preassemble them by filling a yellow or blue corn tortilla with lettuce, spaghetti, chocolate meatballs, avocado, cheese and salsa.

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