Cooking the Books: Four Charming Spells by Lynn Cahoon

Business at Mia’s Morsels is doing so well that owner Mia Malone is thinking of hiring extra help. Complications soon arise when her contact with Magic Springs’ premier destination resort gives her the heads up that they’re looking to hire a full-time catering manager. At the moment, the Lodge is happy to throw smaller jobs her way. Once they start to lean more heavily into events, however, that would definitely cut into—if not end outright—the lucrative catering revenue stream her company relies on to thrive.­

As she wrestles with what to do, she still has to work on the events she has on her calendar—including a wedding in the former school that houses Mia’s Morsels. A kitchen witch herself, Mia has long been tapped into her town’s mystical properties and is well aware of the presence of restless ghosts in her building. She’s, thus, pretty reluctant to host the wedding there despite the bridal party having their hearts set on the location. In an effort to win her over, the groom assures her that he can get his Great-Uncle Alphonse to come back and strengthen the wards that keep unfriendly spirits from harming the living. Since Alphonse was one of the people who originally put up the wards several decades ago, Mia figures that going ahead with the groom’s plans will be a win-win.

She’s somewhat surprised to discover that Alphonse still looks as young as he did when he first helped safeguard the building. She’s completely taken aback, however, to discover that her own grandmother has also been the recent beneficiary of reverse aging spells. Grams claims that she’s been researching spells that may have affected a member of her coven, Hetty Medford, who apparently died of old age despite only being in her 50s. Mia would never try to stop Grams from helping a friend—especially since Hetty’s daughter Mahogany has also asked Mia to look into the issue—but she is concerned that the reverse aging spell seems to have changed Grams’s personality for the worse.

Mia is further alarmed to discover that Mahogany has also fallen under an aging spell and that Hetty may not have been the only person cursed to a premature death. Will she be able to stop anyone else from being murdered by forces unseen, or will a crafty killer take her out before she can put an end to their sinister schemes?

Series fans will really enjoy catching up with Mia and crew—her interactions with Christina, her forever sister, are so heart-warming—as they navigate this chaotic point in their lives. With coven shenanigans, references to the werewolf clans encountered in previous books, and plenty of non-magical drama, a lot of story is packed into these pages. I fear that this would all be overwhelming for anyone not already familiar with the series, so I strongly recommend that new readers start from the beginning or at least one book back.

Four Charming Spells includes one recipe for a healthy and filling pasta dish.

Christina’s Veggie Lasagna

Heat oven to 350. Lightly spray oil a 13-inch by 9-inch baking dish.

In a large pot, boil water, add salt and 12 lasagna noodles. Cook until al dente, then drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

In a large deep skillet, add the following and sauté for five minutes:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup (140 grams) chopped onion

Then add the following and cook until veggies are soft:

1 tablespoon minced garlic, 3 to 4 cloves

⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

2 medium chopped zucchini

2 medium chopped yellow squash

8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms

Salt and pepper to taste

Then add the following and cook until the sauce starts to thicken:

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

Generous handful fresh basil leaves, chopped

Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the following:

One (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese or cottage cheese

2 large eggs

½ tsp salt

In another bowl, gently mix the following:

⅔ cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups of shredded mozzarella

To assemble the lasagna:

Spoon 1 cup vegetable mixture into the baking dish to lightly cover the bottom. Set a layer of noodles, then a layer of veggies, a layer of ricotta (half), and a layer of cheese (⅓). Then repeat the layers starting with the noodles. The third layer only had noodles and the remaining vegetable sauce, finishing with the remaining cheese sprinkled over the top.

Bake covered with foil for 20 minutes, then bake uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let set for 15 minutes.

Serve with garlic bread and a green salad.

As a person who defaults to carnivorous eating when given the option, I have to say that this is one of the best lasagnas I’ve ever tasted, vegetarian or otherwise! It’s also that much easier to make because you don’t have to worry about cooking any meat, with the mushrooms adding a nice umami flavor for those concerned that this might not taste as hearty as a non-vegetarian dish. The fresh basil and red pepper are key—I was generous when adding both—in making this a standout baked entree. I definitely recommend this for anyone wanting a meatless alternative to the traditional lasagna.

Next week, we travel to the Midwest to bake up a different kind of vegetarian dish while investigating the death of a smoothie sipper. Do join me!

See alsoCooking the Books: Murder at an Irish Bakery by Carlene O’Connor

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