Thursday, November 19, 2009

PRIME TIME for Romance by Hank Phillippi Ryan

While attending this year's Moonlight & Magnolias conference in Atlanta, we met the nicest and most gracious lady. She encouraged us and gave us tips when we talked about starting our own blog/review site. Despite the fact that she is a very busy lady, she offered to help us in any way she could. It seemed only fitting to ask her to blog with us during our Housewarming Party week. And thus, she is with us today. Please help us welcome award-winning mystery author Hank Phillippi Ryan to The Romance Dish!

Where’s the romance in Thanksgiving? Where’s the mystery?

First, the dish on the mystery. It’s the gravy. Why is it after so many years of making Thanksgiving dinner for various numbers of family and friends, every year on Thanksgiving morning I wake up with the burning (ouch) question: How do you make gravy?

Is it easy for you? I’ve been a TV reporter for the past 30 years. Like my mystery heroine, I wire myself with hidden cameras, go undercover into tricky situations, confront corrupt politicians and chase down criminals. But the gravy thing? No can do.

Maybe my relationship with gravy needs to heat up a bit. More easily than making gravy, I could write a scene where our heroine, with an adorable smudge of cornstarch on her cheek and a cute black apron tied over her holiday mini-skirt (well, its fiction) stands, perplexed, at the stove. Before her, a bubbling quantity of liquid, simmering in a gleaming copper pan.

It’s Thanksgiving, of course, and this could be the most important holiday of her life.

It’s F day. As our story goes, her new boyfriend (and potentially the love of her life) has asked her home for Thanksgiving dinner. And she’s meeting his Family. F day. And, with his mother waiting in the living room, our heroine has volunteered to help with dinner. Including the gravy.

Talk about goals. Talk about motivation. Talk about conflict.

Our heroine stands, baffled, in front of the still-soupy mess.
The turkey, fragrant and glistening brown, is finishing in the oven. Our heroine checks the little pop up timer to make sure it hasn’t popped. Gazing at the plastic button, she asks the other persistent Thanksgiving question— do those things work? And if so, how?

Meanwhile, back to the gravy. Our heroine stands and stirs, worrying, and somehow deciding that if the gravy turns out, so will her happily ever after. But there it is, like her future, murky, and watery, and not coming together.

Footsteps behind her. Our hero, in a (fill in your personal preference here) sweater and tight jeans (I decided that one) comes toward her. He uses one finger to swipe the cornstarch smudge from her cheek, and risks a quick kiss, even with The Family in the next room. He smells of lemon and champagne.

“Sweetheart,” he says—

Wait a minute. How did this happen? I was thinking about the certainly-looming moment when I once again realize it’s time to face the gravy, and somehow—and I think it’s your fault—my thoughts veered into a potentially lust-filled scene which winds up with the whipped cream designed for the pumpkin pie being put to other uses.

Where’s the mystery in Thanksgiving? Will our heroine solve the mystery of the gravy...and manage to get the sweet potatoes and the stuffing and the green bean casserole all hot and ready at the same time when she only has one oven?

And where’s the romance in Thanksgiving? Will her hero be all hot and ready when the dinner is over? Okay, maybe I’ve gone too far with this. Maybe not. But it just shows there’s romance wherever you allow it!

There are endless possibilities for a Thanksgiving happily-ever-after. So long as there’s family, and friends…and the possibility of giving thanks for each other.
Happy Thanksgiving to you all…and I’m delighted to dish. (As long as I don’t have to bring the gravy.)

Any Thanksgiving tips? Love to hear about them…leave us a comment, and Hank’s team of accountants (!) will help the Dish divas draw for three winners of ARCs of Hank’s award-wining PRIME TIME!


Award-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan is currently on the air at Boston's NBC affiliate, where she's broken big stories for the past 22 years. Her stories have resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in refunds and restitution for consumers.

Along with her 26 EMMYs, Hank's won also won dozens of other journalism honors. She's been a legislative aide in the United States Senate (working on the Freedom of Information Act) and at Rolling Stone Magazine (working with Hunter S. Thompson).

Her first romantic-suspense mysteries, PRIME TIME (which won the prestigious Agatha Award for Best First Novel, was a double RITA nominee for Best First Book and Best Romantic Suspense Novel, and a Reviewers' Choice Award Winner) and FACE TIME (Book Sense Notable Book), are current best sellers. The newest in the series is the already-bestselling AIR TIME (MIRA Sept. 2009) (Suzanne Brockmann says: "I love this series!") Watch for DRIVE TIME from MIRA in February 2010.


  1. Hi :)
    Thanks for the fun post Hank.
    Although it is a week away - Happy Thanksgiving!
    All the best,
    PS - I posted about this post & giveaway on my blog. I hope you don't mind. I also Tweeted it.

  2. Thanksgiving tips: Don't stress out. Enjoy the time with your family and truly be Thankful for the Blessings you have received. (It's ok to burn the gravy)

  3. I am cooking challenged, I once manages to put raw veggies in stew *headdesk* That I didn't poison hubby in those 13 years if his guardian angel watching over him, I swear ;D So I don't think it's wise for me to give you any tips in that direction. And though this day is about sharing it with family and friends and giving thanks for the many good things in life, food goes with that like white on rice. So I've learned to delegate on those days. I do what i am good at, which is baking pastries and such, my mother and sisters do their things and in a few hours a fabulous dinner is on the table. Plus we have oodles of fun in the kitchen :D

  4. Great post Hank and the book sound like a fantastic adventure.

    We don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in Australia but I am already starting to stress over Christmas Lunch even though it is at my sisters place this years I still end up doing all the cooking LOL.
    I make gravy using some of the juices from the meat some cornflour and gravox and water from the vegies but you gotta stir it all the time till it is thickened how you like it.

    I hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful

    have Fun

  5. Hey Hank! Thanks for spending the day with us. Loved the post.

    I usually don't stress over Thanksgiving dinner. See, I married into a great family and my mother-in-law (aka the Cook of the South) makes everything for Thanksgiving dinner. I do wash all the dishes for her and help keep the kitchen clean.

  6. Morning, Hank! Thanks for dishing with us today!

    It took me a lot of years and lumps to work my way to happy gravy and, surprisingly, it was my late dh who finally shared his secret. Start with the meat juices, add water, heat, put cornstarch in a separate glass or bowl, add water to cornstarch to dissolve, then (this is the important part) add a couple tablespoons of the hot meat liquid to the cornstarch, stir then gradually add the hot cornstarch liquid to the meat liquids while stirring. Continue to stir until you have nice, juicy, thickened GRAVY! :)

  7. Good morning, Hank! Thank you so much for joining us today. Loved the blog. It's perfect!

    Now, here my secret for making gravy -- let someone else make it. LOL My mom makes *the best* gravy. Maybe one day she'll share her secret with me. ;-)

    In our family, we always have Thanksgiving dinner at my parents' house. My parents deep-fry a turkey and smoke a turkey breast while everyone that comes over brings the requested side dish and a dessert. If you've never tried deep-fried turkey, you are missing out! It is why I live for Thanksgiving and Christmas. :)

  8. Good morning, Hank! It's such a treat to have you with us.

    I try not to stress over Thanksgiving. We celebrate with my sister and two nieces (they moved near us last year), so we just cherish the fact that we are together. There's always too much food and lots of laughter. Isn't that what's most important?

  9. RK--oh, wonderful, thanks for tweeting! (Are we following each other? Let's do! I'm @hank_phillippi )

    Where's your blog? (I'll find it.)

    And , sigh, I love Calvin and Hobbes.

  10. Smart stuff--You are so right. After all these years, you'd think I'd learn to be be unstressed by now...but, you know, perfectionist as a writer, perfectionist as a gravy maker!

    My step-son and his wife and our two grandchildren Eli and Josh are supposed to be coming to our house for turkey! But now, they may all have the flu.

    SIgh. We'll see...

  11. Leontine:

    Howling with laughter! Yes, there was the time the recipe called for "coffee" and I put in coffee grounds. I mean, I still think they should have specified that they meant the liquid.

    Happy Thanksgiving...and I'm not even going to talk about the time I left the giblets in the turkey while it cooked. Eeeew.

  12. Hi Helen!

    Gravox? What's that? SOunds intersting...

    (See, this is why my main character Charlotte MCNally stays away from the kitchen. She's a great cook, but as she says, carry-out is the new black.)

  13. Buffie! You're such a good daughter in law! And any cook knows, it's such a wonderful treat to have somone else clean up..the best!

    (I even love it when my husband empties the dishwasher. Heaven.)

  14. Hey PJ and ANdrea--thabnk yo so mcuh for inviting me! YOu both looked so excitined and happy in Atlanta when we met--your enthusiasm is contagious! And the blog site is great. I'll come back and chat...I know you have some wonderful plans. COngratulations.

    Cornstarch. Yeah. That's what my mom uses, too, and that makes the gravy nice and shiny. The hot juices INTO the cornstarch water, huh? I'm going to try that..

  15. And oh,Gannon! Thank you! What a great team you have...and this is the perfect place to talk about Thanksgiving. I'm very grateful to you all.. (If I could make a little heart on my computer, I would do that right now...anyone
    know how?)

    Are there Thanksgiving dishes your family simply can't do without? ANd don't you love the smell of roasting turkey? (Deep-fried, huh? I've heard it's fantastic..)

  16. Hank, I make a sweet potato casserole with a brown sugar, cinnamon and pecan topping. OMG! It's so good you could eat it for dessert.

    And my kids would protest if I didn't make my double layer pumpkin pie--the bottom layer is cream cheese. YUM!

    Is anyone else hungry all of a sudden or is it just me? *g*

  17. Gannon, that sounds YUMMY. Can you post the recipe? Or point us to it?

    Or is it: mash sweet potatoes. Top with brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Bake til warmed thorugh. Devour.

    Or does it have eggs and cream? Cream cheese?

    Ah, yes, I can almost smell this...

  18. I uss my mother's gravy recipe, but it uses flour, not corn starch. It involves adding flour bit by bit to the drippings in the bottom of the pan the turkey cooked in, stirring all the while, until the flour is cooked and the mixture is thick. Then add water a bit at a time, continuing to stir. When you get the amount and consistency you want, check the seasonings. You may need salt and pepper. It helps to have lots of drippings and a good pan to do this in. The deal is to be sure the flour is cooked. "Raw" flour leaves an unfinished taste.
    Happy T'giving to us all.

  19. Hi,
    Thanksgiving Tip:

    1)Don't worry about making the house extra clean because you can always blame the mess on the kids by saying they were trying to help clean or decorate. Most People find it endearing.

    2) Always put ketchup in a serving bowl. Many people like it with their turkey, but don't want to ask for it. ^^

  20. Hi Hank, and welcome!
    Thanksgiving tips? Ummm well this is the first year I've hosted Thanksgiving, so I'm going to be watching everyones tips too!
    If you aren't hosting Thanksgiving the tips I can give you are:
    Stay out of the cooks way.

    Stay out of the Kitchen unless your given a job to do.

    Keep the cook happy.

    Clean up the dishes so the cook can relax.

    And HAVE FUN!

    I'm sorry your step-son and his family have the flu, hopefully they are better by T-Day and can still come over.
    Your hubby empties the dish washer? WOW! did you train him? If so how??? I'm lucky if my hubby gets the dishes to the sink. *sigh*

  21. *searches office for working pen and some paper*

    Thanks PJ for the dish on how to make gravy!

    *copies PJ's instructions and puts into T-day file*

  22. Gannon~

    Oh can you post the recipe? That sounds delish!

  23. Andrea, love your gravy making tip! lol!

    Gannon, sweet potatoes are my favorite T'day dish!

    RKCharron, thanks for posting about this at your blog and on Twitter. We appreciate it!

    StuffSmart, not stressing is the best T'day tip you can give, in my opinion. You've hit on the most important part of the holiday: Enjoy and be thankful.

  24. Leontine, stick with us. We have lots of good cooking blogs on the schedule.

    Btw, I bet we've all had our fair share of kitchen disasters. I know I have! ;-)

  25. Helen, I bet you put out a wonderful holiday lunch!

    Ann, my mom and grandma both used flour too but I've never been able to get the hang of it. My four gravy always ends up lumpy. I do much better with the cornstarch.

  26. Jedisakora, good tip on the ketchup, especially if there are kids.

    Dorthy, I'm lol at "keep the cook happy" - always a good idea!

  27. @Hank Phillippi Ryan - I would've done the exact same thing.

    @PJ - Oh, that's sounds good. Perhaps I can shock my hubby and family by managing an imaginitive dinner ;)

  28. jedisakora said: Always put ketchup in a serving bowl. Many people like it with their turkey, but don't want to ask for it.

    Great tip! My five-year-old loves ketchup or ranch on everything! LOL

  29. Hank asks: Are there Thanksgiving dishes your family simply can't do without?

    Green bean bundles. This is the side dish that I bring over every year and it's always a hit.

    Preheat the oven to 350.
    Take a pack of bacon and cut the strips in half.
    Wrap 7 or 8 whole grean beans in each of the half strips of bacon.
    Line them up in a 9x13 pan.
    In a small saucepan, melt a half stick of butter, 1/3 cup of brown sugar, and 3 or 4 tablespoons of garlic salt.
    Mix well.
    Drizzle over the grean bean bundles and bake for 40-45 minutes.

  30. Ann Macela said: I uss my mother's gravy recipe, but it uses flour, not corn starch.

    My mom uses flour, too. ;-)

  31. Hank said: (I even love it when my husband empties the dishwasher. Heaven.)

    What is this you speak of? Of course, it's probably my fault that my husband doesn't do it. I'm very particular about loading it, so he pretty much stays away. LOL

  32. Andrea! The green beans sound terrific..oh, I'm so hungry now!

  33. Ketchup. Hmm. That is pretty interesting. And kind of genius. My 6 year old grandson would be thrilled, that's for sure.

    Flour in the gravy. See--that's the lump thing. You have to be so careful or it makes little goo-balls that are impossible to dissolve. I mean, really, you have to just scoop them out altogether. So: successful flour-users, I salute you!

  34. I absolutely love Thanksgiving! The family is all together and I get to stuff my face without feeling guilty. ;) I like to cook and I make the same dish every year: broccoli and cheese casserole. Mmhmm. The family works together to make the Thanksgiving feast a success. :)

  35. Thanks ^^ PJ & Andrea.

    It's actually something we've been doing every year since my sister and I were younger. My cousin Michelle, Ashley, and I have always liked ketchup with our turkey, but we've never been allowed to have the bottle out. So we came up with the idea of putting it in a serving dish. That way everyone who wants ketchup can have some and the table still look nice.

  36. jedisakora--you could just call the ketchup "special tomato glaze" or something like that.

    And TrishaM--will you post your broccoli and cheese casserole recipe? Sounds lovely...


  37. All the rcipes sound delish ladies. Now I am hungry. My idea of a perfect Thanksgiving is going out to eat. Yup you heard me correctly. Call me unAmerican but my idea of a good time is not spending the entire day worrying about some stupid turkey. While my husband was deployed the kids and I started a tradition of having--gasp- ham!! They still want it too, but hubby is a traditonalist.
    Dishes that are a must at our table (when I am persuaded to cook for Thanksgiving) are deviled eggs and fruit salad!
    Christmas is a whole different ball game in our house though! Then I put on a spread. Anyway....thanks PJ for the gravy tips. I will be sure to employ them when I am next making it and Gannon I would love the recipe for the sweet potatoes!

  38. Hank, That's a brilliant idea ^^ Till now we've always called it our special sauce. It always sounded like we were dipping our turkey in alcohol. lol Your title is much better and sounds less boozy. ^^

  39. Mmmmmmm...broccoli cheese casserole... All this talk of food is making me hungry! Can't wait for the big day. :)

  40. Cyndi, I just love deviled eggs. My mother-in-law makes them for every family gathering and usually it is just her and me who eat them :-) No complaints from me though! LOL!

  41. Trisha, broccoli cheese casserole is a staple at our dinner table too! It is very yummy :)

  42. Sorry I've been away from my computer all afternoon. Wow! All this talk of Thanksgiving food makes me wish it was less than a week away.

    As for my sweet potato casserole recipe, I'll make it easy on you. PJ's niece is doing a guest blog this Saturday and she has a recipe for sweet potato casserole that's just like mine. And she even posted a picture!

    Oh boy! I'm starving. Good thing it's dinner time.

    Andrea, I'll have to make those green bean bundles. They sound really good.

    I'm making a new dish this year. The recipe was in the newspaper this week: Mashed Potato Casserole w/ Smoked Gouda and Bacon. I'm salivating already. If it turns out as good as it sounds, I'll post the recipe after Turkey Day!

  43. This is great!!! I can totally relate to the gravy fiasco. I DON’T make gravy at my house. If I do, it comes from a jar or a package and even then, I mess it up. On the other hand, my husband makes awesome gravy. He cornered his mother a few years ago and had her teach him how to make sausage gravy for biscuits and gravy. Since then, he’s branched out into so many different directions that I’ve pretty much turned over most of the cooking to him.

    ….sigh…. I love it when a plan comes together.

    Thanks for a great story. You definitely put a smile on my lips!

    Tami Brothers
    Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Blog

    PS – I had a blast sitting with you, Dianna Love, Annie Oortman and Barbara Vey at one of the dinners at Moonlight and Magnolias. You ladies were a hoot!

  44. Thanks for spending the day with us, Hank! It's been a real pleasure.

  45. Hi guys! Waving madly..I had some breaking news..then I had a wonderful booksigning..but all I could think about were green bean bundles and whether ANYONE was going to post a recipe for broccoli casserole.


    So I'll come back for PJ's niece's recipe, too.

    We'll draw for winners of the ARCS of PRIME TIME--there's still time to enter!

    You all come visit me at my website

    I am about to get just-released one-chapter pamphlets of DRIVE TIME (which comes out in February) --if you want to be the first to read it, just email me through my website and let me know. Put DRIVE TIME DISH in the subject line!

    And it was truly lovely to meet you all. I had a great day--and sorry I had to race out this evening. As a news reporter, you just never know when something is going to happen!

    Happy Happy Thanksgiving to all of you..and dish divas, I hope you invite me back! It was fantastic to be here.

    Love love love

  46. Tami! So nice to chat with you! That was quite an evening--I adored M&M..and hope I get to come back. It was stellar, don't you think? And we did have a wonderful table.

    ANd--I'm still using my PF and HT notebook! Thank you so much...say hi to everyone for me, and let me knoe if there's anything I can do.

  47. And let me just say: Deviled eggs. LOVE THEM.

    But paprika? Or No paprika?

    xoxo H

  48. I love deviled eggs, too -- with or without paprika. ;-)

    Thank you so much for visiting with us today, Hank! We had a blast! XOXO

  49. Hi Hank, i hope i'm not too late to enter the giveaways :) Coz I love to win this book. it's quite some times for me to trying my luck to win your book :)

    Thanks Giving ? well, i don't celebrate it here in Indonesia. so i just only can give you the recipe of Broccoli Casserole, ( i got it from food network ^_^) Enjoy!

    Broccoli Casserole :
    * 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
    * 1 cup mayonnaise
    * 1 cup grated sharp cheddar
    * 1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
    * 2 eggs, lightly beaten
    * 2 cups crushed crackers
    * 2 tablespoons butter, melted

    Directions :

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray.

    In a large mixing bowl, combine broccoli, mayonnaise, cheese, soup and eggs. Mix well with a metal spoon. Place the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with the crushed crackers and pour the melted butter evenly over the crackers. Bake for 35 minutes or until set and browned.