Maya Salem | Daily Nexus

I was tricked into eating butternut squash at a young age. My older sister had just told me about these great new shredded carrots at the salad bar in our favorite restaurant. As a massive fan of carrots, after having recently learned of their superpower-granting nutrients that allow me to see in the dark, I was sold. Though the shredded carrots were a slightly lighter orange than normal, I piled them high on my plate. I got back to our table, my sister watching my every move. As I loaded up my fork and began to taste their sweet, crunchy and slightly nutty flavor, I looked at her with surprise. No, they clearly weren’t carrots, but they were good! To her utter disappointment, that was the day I fell in love with butternut squash.

Years later, I look for every versatile form of this orange, vitamin A-rich squash: soup, roasted, fried, raw, etc. So, to my surprise, when I saw a Trader Joe’s product that looks like raw crinkle-cut sweet potato fries that said “butternut squash” on the packaging, of course I had to buy it. 

This one-pan butternut squash saute has become my go-to weekday meal. It’s warm, it’s vegetarian and its lavish, earthy flavors just hit the spot during winter.



  • 1 package Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Zig-Zags
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 handfuls baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese


  1. In a pan, preheat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the butternut squash, letting it sear for 2 minutes, untouched. Saute for 6-8 minutes, or until fork-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from the pan and set aside. 
  2. Thinly slice shallots and mince garlic. Wash, pat dry and slice mushrooms. They should be completely dry before cooking them. 
  3. Heat another tablespoon of oil in the same pan. Add garlic and shallots, cooking until translucent and aromatic. 
  4. Add mushrooms to the pan in one layer. Stir a few times so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Once the mushrooms have browned and shrunk in size (about 4-5 minutes), add a pinch of salt and red pepper flakes. 
  5. Reduce heat to low and add spinach. Wilt with the lid on for 1 minute or until it has shrunk in half. 
  6. Add the butternut squash back to the pan. Stir and heat through. 
  7. Top with plenty of grated parmesan cheese. Serve while steaming.

If your New Year’s resolution is to eat more vegetables or to cook more, this is the perfect place to start. This one-pot meal is friendly to your budget, your health and your dish-washing energy. Each time I make this, I send a photo to my sister — a reminder of her failed prank and my unexpected introduction to a great vegetable. 

When I walk into Trader Joe’s these days, without fail, I make a beeline toward these butternut squash crinkles. Maybe I’ll see you there too!