Spaghetti Squash and Spicy Cherry Tomatoes: Eat Healthy This Summer

This summer, my obsession with spaghetti squash increased significantly. There are endless possibilities for using this vegetable. It can be a substitute for pasta, offering a healthier alternative to a starch-heavy and carb-loaded meal, or it can be eaten just as it is.

One of my favorite combinations is adding spicy baked cherry tomatoes to the spaghetti squash. Toss these two together, and you have a flavorful dish that will go well with a variety of proteins: fish, shrimp, crab cakes and chicken.

Spaghetti squash takes more time to bake than you'd expect; it's not something you can decide to make last-minute...especially if you're starving. I bake the spaghetti squash before I cut into it because it is extremely hard. If you're a lumberjack in the kitchen, by all means, cut into that sucker and bake in halves (it will save you some time), but if you're not, simply bake it in one piece.

At 375 to 400 degrees (depending on the size of your spaghetti squash), bake for an hour to an hour and a half. You should be able to stick a fork through the skin when it is done -- that will test the tenderness of the squash.

While the spaghetti squash bakes in the oven, you can start preparing the spicy cherry tomatoes.

Start by halving beautiful yellow and red cherry tomatoes. The contrast of colors appeals to the eye so much more than if they were all the same color. Golden yellow and bright red cherry tomatoes work perfectly together for this dish.

Now place the halved tomatoes into a small baking dish (I use an 8-by-8-inch dish). Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top -- you only need a little bit because the juice from the tomatoes will seep out while they bake, so you don't want a runny mess in your dish.

Season the tomatoes with three cloves of garlic, minced, one tablespoon of oregano, two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and one teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Be careful with the red pepper flakes -- my mom always told me not to decorate with them or your mouth will be on fire. Season with a little bit of salt and pepper to round out the flavors of the dish and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to pop.

Once the spaghetti squash is fork-tender, cut into the squash lengthwise (use an oven mitt because the squash is hot), then use a spoon to scrape out the middle portion of the squash -- it's full of seeds. Once the seeds are removed, scrape out the rest of the spaghetti squash into a bowl, fluff with a fork to separate the noodle-like pieces and season with a little bit of butter, salt and pepper.

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