Six Olympic athletes share their favorite holiday recipes

Want to know what the world’s best athletes eat and cook during the holidays? We did too, so we asked six of our Olympian friends to share their favorite holiday dish, along with why they like it and any intel we might need to make sure it tastes just as good when we make it too.

This season, don’t just impress your family and friends with your culinary skills, but also give them something to talk about over the dinner table or around the appetizer buffet by making one of these dishes and crediting its deliciousness to your favorite athlete. Not only are you feeding your family and friends something homemade and tasty, you also have a great conversation starter when Aunt Mildred obviously wants to talk to you again about her cat’s bowel problems. You’re welcome.

Natalie Coughlin’s Asparagus Frittata 

Natalie Coughlin cooking for Luvo (Photo from
Natalie Coughlin cooking for Luvo (Photo courtesy of

Despite being a 12-time Olympic and 20-time world championship medalist, swimmer Natalie Coughlin still amazingly finds time to cook—and loves it. Her kitchen is always stocked with fresh veggies from her garden outside her home in Northern California, where she also raises chickens, which supply the eggs for this easy dish. Coughlin loves the frittata for a holiday breakfast or even as an alternative to the heavier dishes on a typical Christmas dinner spread. “Feel free to change the veggies, and you can even add prosciutto or spicy salami with the veggie sauté,” she told Excelle Sports. “Paired with a large mixed green salad, it makes a really nice light meal.”

Ingredients: 8 eggs, at room temperature 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, shredded and divided 2 bunches asparagus, chopped into 1” pieces 1 large leek, trimmed and whites chopped 2 c baby spinach 1 Tbsp butter 1 Tbsp olive oil Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Preheat the broiler and set a rack 6 inches from the flame. In bowl, scramble eggs with salt, pepper and 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese. Don’t over scramble the eggs—you still want to see a slight difference between the whites and yolks. Set aside. In large pan, heat oil and butter over medium-high heat. Sauté leeks for about a minute, stirring occasionally. Add chopped asparagus to leeks, along with a hefty pinch of salt. Sauté vegetables until almost fully cooked, about 3 minutes. Add spinach with scant pinch of salt and pepper to taste. When the spinach is almost fully wilted, use a spatula to flatten and spread mixture in pan; pour eggs on top. Turn pan so eggs evenly spread throughout pan. When the edges of the eggs start to separate from sides of pan, turn off heat and finish cooking frittata under broiler. Remove from heat when frittata is lightly golden and eggs are fully set. Immediately turn frittata onto large serving plate and garnish with remaining Parmesan. Slice like a pizza and serve.

[More from Excelle Sports: Five surprising diet tips from Team USA’s top sports nutritionist]

 Natasha Hastings’s White Chocolate Peppermint Martini

White Chocolate Peppermint Martini
White Chocolate Peppermint Martini
It’s not all kale salads and protein shakes when you’re a top-level athlete. American sprinter and two-time Olympic gold medalist Natasha Hastings likes to mix things up during the holidays with this signature cocktail. “This is always a hit at my Christmas parties,” she said.

Ingredients: 2 oz vodka, preferably vanilla flavored 2 oz Godiva white chocolate liquor 1 oz Peppermint Schnapps Marshmallow topping Crushed peppermint candies Candy canes (for garnish) Whipped cream (optional)

Directions: Coat the rim of martini glass with marshmallow topping and crushed peppermint candy. Drizzle marshmallow topping on sides of glass. Place glass in freezer. In shaker with ice, mix vanilla vodka, white chocolate liquor and Peppermint Schnapps. Pour into chilled martini glass. Top with whipped cream (optional) and more crushed peppermint candy. Add candy cane for garnish.

KK Clark’s Holiday Biscuits


Olympic gold medalist and water polo star KK Clark’s favorite holiday recipe has been passed down through generations, which means it doubles in athletic clout: Clark comes from a family of Olympic athletes. “It’s believed that my great grandmother saw this recipe in a newspaper or magazine when she was little,” she said. “It’s been a family favorite since!”

Ingredients: 6 c flour ¼ c baking powder ½ c skim milk powder ¼ c sugar 2 tsp salt 2 tsp cream of tartar 2 c vegetable shortening 1 ½ c water Directions: In mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. With pastry blender or two knives, cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With fork, stir in water. Knead eight to 10 times. On a floured surface, roll into a 13×9-inch rectangle, about ¾-inch thick. Cut into 1 ½-inch squares. Place on a greased cookie sheet about ½-inch apart. Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until light golden brown. Dough may be frozen, unbaked, for up to three months. Bake frozen biscuits at the same time and temperature as unfrozen. Makes about 4 ½ dozen biscuits. [More from Excelle Sports: Three Easy-to-Make Delicious Snacks from Olympic Water Polo Star Jaime Komer]

Maggie Steffens’s Noel Nut Balls

Noel Nut Balls
Noel Nut Balls

Two-time Olympic gold medal Maggie Steffens scored 17 goals at the 2016 Olympic Games to help Team USA dominate in water polo this past summer. The star player comes from a family of about 45 cousins, many who share a passion for the sport as well as these delicious nut balls.  “These are a family favorite during the holidays,” she said.

Ingredients: 1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature 2 Tbsp honey 1 tsp bourbon or orange juice 2¼ c sifted all-purpose flour ¾ c pecans or pecan-walnut mixture ½ c sifted confectioners’ sugar, plus more for rolling ¼ tsp salt

Directions: In electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and honey until fluffy. Add bourbon and beat to combine. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, pecans, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Add to butter mixture and beat to combine. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate for 3 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Toast nuts for 10 minutes. Allow to cool, then chop using a mallet or knife. Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut off small pieces, about 2 tsp, and hand roll each piece into a ball. Place on prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between balls. Bake until brown around the edges, 12 to 13 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Roll in confectioners’ sugar to coat. Makes about 5 dozen. 

Phaidra Knight’s Gluten-Free Organic Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls

As USA Rugby’s Player of the Decade, Phaidra Knight is one of the best athletes ever to play her sport, which means she should know a thing or two about seeking good comfort food when she’s off the field. When it’s the most wonderful time of the year, the 12-year veteran of the U.S. women’s national rugby team whips up these gluten-free organic cinnamon rolls, which are sure to please anyone with an appetite for sweet bliss at your next holiday gathering.

Ingredients*: Dough: 6 Tbsp ghee, melted 2 c and 2 Tbsp almond flour ¼ c tapioca flour ½ c and 2 Tbsp arrowroot flour 6 Tbsp coconut flour, plus 1 Tbsp for sprinkling 1¼ tsp baking powder ½ tsp baking soda ½ tsp Celtic sea salt 2 Tbsp coconut sugar 1 c canned coconut milk 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Spice swirl: ½ c coconut sugar 1 tsp ground cinnamon ¼ tsp Celtic sea salt 2 Tbsp ghee, melted

Icing: ½ c coconut butter 2 Tbsp raw honey ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

* use all organic ingredients

Directions: Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 375°F. Using a pastry brush, coat a 9-inch cake pan with 1 tablespoon of melted ghee.

To the spice swirl, combine coconut sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in enough melted ghee until mixture is damp. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, whisk together all of almond flour, tapioca flour, arrowroot flour, coconut flour (except 2 Tbsp), baking powder, baking soda, salt and coconut sugar. In a measuring glass, whisk together coconut milk, lemon juice, and 2 Tbsp butter. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until a rough dough forms. Let dough sit for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle reserved 2 Tbsp coconut flour onto clean work surface. Place dough on surface and gently press to form a 12 x 9-inch rectangle. Using a pastry brush, brush dough with 1 Tbsp melted ghee. Pour spice swirl over dough and gently spread it in an even layer using butter knife. Carefully roll dough into 12-inch log. Cut dough into 8 even pieces. Place pieces swirl-side up in ghee-coated cake pan and gently press to flatten dough to about 1-inch thick. Brush rolls with remaining 2 Tbsp melted ghee.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until rolls are golden brown.

To make icing, combine coconut butter, honey, vanilla and ¼ c plus 2 Tbsp water in small saucepan over low heat. Whisk until the ingredients become a warm, smooth glaze. Drizzle icing over baked rolls. Serve warm.

Meghan O’Leary’s Holiday Trail Mix


U.S. Olympic rower Meghan O’Leary knows what goes into a good trail mix—she is an endurance athlete, after all. But this cereal-inspired snack is also one of her favorite holiday recipes. “My mother has made this every year around the holidays since I can remember,” she said. “She still sends me a little holiday tin wherever I’ve been training for the past few years. It’s pretty basic and easy to make, but makes for a delicious snack to munch on and have on the go.”

Ingredients: 16-18 oz bag pretzel sticks (for gluten-free recipe, substitute with gluten-free pretzel sticks) 16-18 oz box Cheerios 16-18 oz box Chex cereal (use Honey Chex for a sweet and salty taste) 1 lb. butter 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp garlic salt 1/4-1/2 tsp minced garlic 1 to 2 lbs favorite nuts or mixed nuts 

Directions: Spread pretzels and cereal in large roasting pan and mix thoroughly. In small saucepan, add butter, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt and minced garlic and heat over low flame until melted. Pour over mixture in roasting pan and combine thoroughly. Bake mixture at 250 degrees, stirring every 20 minutes to prevent sticking. After 90 minutes, add nuts to roasting pan and bake for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool 10-15 minutes before enjoying!

Excelle Sports lifestyle editor Kim Vandenberg is an Olympic bronze medalist, Pan American gold medalist, World Championship silver medalist and three-time U.S. national champion and French national champion in swimming. She’s also a member of Excelle’s Athletes Council.

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