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A (super)natural in kitchen

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If you love Harry Potter, chances are you've dreamed of sampling Butterbeer, The Three Broomstick's most famous brew. Maybe you've even suffered some ill-fated attempts in the kitchen trying to create it yourself.

Fortunately, Fresno author Gina Meyers is a bit more of a wizard in the kitchen than most.

The creative cook has self-published several "uniquely themed" cookbooks, including "Muggles to Magic: The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook," which will be featured during a book-signing Saturday at Barnes & Noble, where Meyers will demonstrate different ways to prepare Harry's favorite frothy beverage in her Butterbeer 101 demonstration.

Meyers also has a book for readers who have dreamed of munching on a plate of mushroom ravioli while gazing into the eyes of their undead true love: "Love at First Bite: The Unofficial Twilight Cookbook."

"My 'Twilight' cookbook is really what started the ball rolling as far as my notoriety goes," Meyers said. "I had never read the books before, but my friend invited me to a movie premiere in 2008, and I just was floored. I immediately went home and grabbed my teenage stepdaughter's books from her room, and everything just sort of took off from there."

In "Love at First Bite" as well as "Muggles to Magic" (which is, to date, Meyers' best-seller), readers will find recipes for dishes lifted directly from the pages of the novels that inspired them, such as cauldron cakes and chicken enchiladas (diehard Twi-hards know their significance). And then there are recipes simply inspired by the books, like pumpkin fudge and Charlie's catch of the day crab cakes.

"It just seemed so natural to me to write these books," Meyers said. "Because food plays such an important role in both of these series."

The majority of the dishes seem flavorful yet familiar, the recipes passed on to Meyers by members of her Sicilian family, or created by the author herself for the many cooking classes she continues to teach today.

Some are a mixture of the store-bought and the homemade, but all of them, according to Meyers, are easy enough for even novice cooks to prepare.

"By incorporating popular culture with cooking, I hope to bring people of all ages back into the kitchen," she said. "I want to encourage older cooks to try new things, and I intentionally made the recipes simple so that I can maybe introduce new cooks to the world of the culinary arts."

Though Meyers' book sales don't pay all the bills, she said between teaching her cooking classes, writing and running her own publishing company, she has managed to create a life for herself doing more than a few of her favorite things.

"My life has been really magical. I've had these great opportunities for my passion for cooking and popular culture to translate, and it all started out with me just baking for family and friends. It's just amazing to think about the fact that the dreams that I had for my life have somehow turned out even bigger than I once imagined."

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