College Cookbook: The story I meant to write a long time ago

This is my final College Cookbook. I’ll be moving to the Peninsula and am leaving The Northern Light behind. My three-plus years here have been full of growth, with the paper acting as a journalistic diving board for me to propel into greater opportunities.

College Cookbook, which is now an award-winning column, played no small part in this. I would have never discovered my love of food writing were it not for UAA Atwood Chair Julia O’Malley, nor would I have had a platform to practice that craft if it weren’t for College Cookbook. A simple, even campy, column that I looked forward to every week. There are so many recipes and stories I wanted to share but didn’t have the time to. Now, I’ll share a recipe and story I’ve been meaning to write for over a year now.

Last year, I lost many family members, as readers can probably tell from former College Cookbooks. It started with my grandpa Dave (my dad’s stepdad), my grandpa Gerald (my dad’s dad), my great-granny and towards the end of the year, my grandpa David (my mom’s dad). While all loss is difficult, my grandpa Gerald’s death was especially hard for me.

gerald petersen
My grandpa, Gerald Petersen of Colorado Springs, came up with biscuit-style donuts, that were easy to make and eat. Photo credit: Victoria Petersen

He lived in Colorado, was 6-foot 6-inches and 300 pounds. A professional football player in the 1950s, he played for what was then the Baltimore Colts. He grew up in Texas on a farm. He spent the rest of his career as a high school teacher. He spent his retired years traveling the world, filling my head with stories about Venetian glass blowing, African safaris and floating in the Dead Sea.

He was my first pen pal, we talked on the phone often and visits were getting more and more frequent. It was last spring semester, and I was busy, as most of us are in our spring semesters, when I thought to call my grandpa. It had been over a week or two when we last talked, but I blew it off, thinking that I could talk to him the following day. Later that night, as I was watching a movie with friends, my dad calls me and says he’s flying to Colorado, and that my grandpa is in the hospital. I don’t really remember why. But only a few days later he was gone. I never got to say goodbye.

In special circumstances, when we were staying at a hotel with a kitchen, or when my sister, Dad and I had the house to ourselves, we would make my grandpa’s special donuts.

They were messy, fattening and delicious morsels that were probably more fun to make than they were to eat. The donuts left cinnamon and sugar covered countertops, and floors in their wake. My dad would tell us how his dad, my grandpa, made the donuts for him when he was a kid. The donuts were made using basically just three ingredients: Pillsbury Biscuit Grands (the kind that come in a tube), cinnamon and sugar. To my grandpa, this recipe must have seemed like the greatest shortcut in the mid-1900s. I’m sure that any tubular biscuit brand will work, but my dad said that Grands is the best. For me, this recipe feels like childhood, and with all of the hardships and adult situations we are forced to face in college, and in our early 20s, it can be nice to rewind and make something fun, easy and nostalgic.

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This is a quintessential college recipe in my opinion. You can impress your friends with something homemade that takes little of your time, and little expertise. The only equipment you need is a deep pan, a gallon-sized plastic bag and a shot glass.


  • 1 can of biscuits
  • Enough oil to fill you pan about a quarter of the way to the top
  • 1/4 cup of cinnamon and sugar, mixed together in the plastic bag


1. Open up the can of biscuits and lay the dough out flat. Using the rim of the shot glass, cut out small circles from the dough.

2. In a pan, heat oil on high. When the oil is hot carefully place the small dough circles into the pan using a spatula or other utensil.

3. They take only a moment to cook, about 15-30 seconds. They will puff up and turn a golden color. Remove from the oil and place on a plate covered by a paper towel.

4. Continue this process until all the dough is gone.

5. While the donuts are still hot, toss a handful of them at a time into the cinnamon and sugar filled plastic bag.

6. Shake the bag until you can see that all of the donuts are coated in cinnamon and sugar. Plate for a group of loved ones and enjoy.