Photo: Tanner Hansen gets some help from his son Parker, while kneading some dough. Submitted Photo

How a past-time turned into a passion

It was June of 2017 when Tanner Hansen decided to visit the doctor.

He was having a hard time writing and thought maybe carpal tunnel was what made him struggle to hold a pen.

But after the neurologist ran some tests, Hansen received news no 31-year-old wants to hear.

He had Parkinson’s disease.

The incurable disorder affects the nervous system by damaging nerve cells and hindering movement. And like in Hansen’s case, it’s also linked to severe depression.

After his diagnosis, Hansen returned to work for a time. But coping with the progressive disease and the depression and medication that comes along with it eventually forced him to leave his job at the bank.

“I decided to step back, and focus on getting better,” Hansen said.

But instead of sitting idly, he turned to an old passion of his.

“I’ve always enjoyed cooking,” Hansen said. “It’s a way I can be creative.”

Hansen started his own food blog, posting recipes online that he whips up in his kitchen.

“It’s something I’ve always thought about doing,” Hansen said.

Hansen has posted around 30 of his recipes so far, and enjoys running into people out in the community that have tried making them.

“It’s nice to hear feedback from it,” Hansen said.

Hansen does a lot of the cooking for his wife Andrea and their two kids. Lots of times, Hansen cooks up recipes they’ll eat for dinner. Other times, it’s whenever inspiration strikes.

“I didn’t think I was going to make stuffing right when I woke up this morning,” Hansen said. “But I did.”

Many of Hansen’s recipes he makes up as he goes.

“I like doing it for fun,” Hansen said. “And fun for me isn’t having something you have to follow.”

While it may be fun for Hansen, it sometimes comes as a disappointment to his wife Andrea. On occasion, she will commend Hansen for a job well done, only to be told that he’s not sure exactly how he made the dish – or how to reproduce it.

Growing up, Hansen had lots of family members who enjoyed cooking, but really got into grilling when he was in college.

He worked the meat counter at Hy-Vee while he attended the University of Northern Iowa, picking up a few pointers here and there from his co-workers.

He and his buddies passed the time by getting together for grill-outs.

“That’s what we always did, and we still do it,” Hansen said. “It’s a heck of a lot cheaper than going to the bar!”

Now, he posts a mix of recipes to his blog  — from pizza dough, roasts and soups, to his wife’s favorite — a smoked meatloaf that ditches the ketchup and is instead stuffed with garlic, onions, peppers, mushrooms and cheese.

“I don’t have any fancy equipment,” Hansen said. “If you enjoy cooking, anything you have will work.”

Hansen said he has no plans to cater or turn his blog into a full-fledged business; he views it as a way to stay productive, and just enjoys cooking and sharing his creations with whomever might be interested.

“I don’t really plan ahead. I want [cooking] to be fun,” Hansen said. “If it gets to the point where it’s not enjoyable, I won’t want to do it anymore.”

While he may have some delicious creations of his own, Hansen is only making the stuffing for his family’s Thanksgiving get together.

“My grandmas are good cooks,” Hansen said. “I don’t want them to not cook!”

Below are a few samples from Hansen’s blog that you could bring along to a holiday get together. For more recipes and photos, click here:

Smoked Meat Loaf

This is my wife’s favorite thing that I have made. I first made this when I started playing around with a smoker. It has evolved over time and has become a great and unique recipe to make. I have even made them as large meat balls for an appetizer.

I like to play around with the types of meats used in this. I think my favorite is the combination below but I have enjoyed several combinations.


1 lb Ground Beef

1 lb Italian Pork Sausage

1/4 Cup Milk

2 Eggs – Lightly Beaten

3/4 Cup BBQ Sauce

1/2 Green Pepper – Finely Chopped

1 Small White Onion – Finely Chopped

1 1/2 Cup Chopped Mushrooms (3-4 small to medium Mushrooms and stems)

2 Cloves Garlic – Minced

1/2 Cup Italian Style Bread Crumbs

1 Cup Garlic Instant Potato Flakes

2 Teaspoon Salt (or seasoning of choice)

1-1 1/2 Cup Shredded Smoked Gouda

Directions: Combine beef and pork. Add milk, eggs, BBQ sauce, garlic, bread crumbs, potato flakes and salt. Mix until combined. Be sure not to over mix. Add Gouda cheese and mix lightly. Form into desired size of loafs and place on foil pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and let it set up in the fridge for at least one hour and up to overnight.

Warm up smoker to 225 degrees.

Smoke with desired wood until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. When they have reached approximately 145-150 degrees, baste them with BBQ sauce.

Remove from smoker and let rest for 5 minutes.

Ranch Mashed Potatoes


6 Medium Russet Potatoes

1 Packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Packet

1/2 Stick Butter

1 Cup Heavy Cream (you could use milk)

1 Clove Garlic Minced

Directions: Peel and wash your potatoes. Cut into quarters and place in pot. Cover with water. If you want to prep ahead, you can keep the peeled potatoes in the water for several hours in the fridge before cooking.

Boil until tender when poked with a fork.

Remove from heat. Strain potatoes and return to pan.

Add butter and garlic. Let the butter melt. Whip the potatoes with a hand mixer until combined, they will be quite sticky at this point.

Add Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing packet and heavy cream and mix until smooth. You may need to add some more cream to get to desired consistency.

Simple Cocktail Sauce


1 Cup Ketchup

1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon of Horseradish Mustard

1 Tablespoon + 1 Teaspoon of Prepared Horseradish (adjust for desired hotness)

Combine ingredients on a medium bowl and mix well.

Stores in fridge for several days. I like to make it a day ahead so that it has time for the flavors to combine.


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