Fiction flows online

A NEW Thai-language website full of literary fiction debuted last Monday – and immediately crashed because fan interest overloaded its server. The founders got the technical glitch resolved and more than 4,000 people could resume reading. It’s a number that’s bound to rise much further.

The key founders of AnOwl are three novelists who were already popular under the pennames Piyaporn Sakkasem, Pongsakorn and Kingchat.

Piyaporn – real name Nantaporn Sarntigasem – is the author of such hit titles as “Tawan Tor Saeng”, “Sai See Plueng” and “Rak Nakara”. The many fiction-friendly magazines that have folded in recent years left writers and readers without a “meeting point”, she says.

“The magazines provided a stage for writers to present their work under the care of professional editors. The readership hasn’t declined, but the consumer’s media-consumption behaviour changed. We want to fill the empty hole with an online community for readers and writers.”

AnOwl aims to fill the folded magazines’ role as meeting points for authors and readers.

They needed a name for the site that was meaningful in both Thai and English. AnOwl fits the bill because the owl in Western culture symbolises wisdom, and AnOwl resembles the Thai for “reading for (a specific purpose)”.

AnOwl is billed as a weekly magazine with novels forming the backbone of the free content. Piyaporn, Kingchat (Parichat Salicupt) and Pongsakorn (Dr Pongsakorn Chindawatana) share the editorial duties. Another five founding members have worked in the publishing business for many years.

“In these days of digital news, more and more people are turning to social media, resulting in a constant decline in readership for conventional newspapers and magazines,” says Kingchat, whose best sellers include “Pornprom Onlawaeng”, “Sera Daran”, “Buag Hong” and “Sood Saneh Ha”.

“The time has come for us to adapt to the interactive digital platform, but we need to retain the high quality of a good magazine. We’ll try to keep our content free as long as possible because we don’t want to burden our readers.”

The inaugural content is 10 novels, free for the reading.

The initial content is 10 novels that have never been published – by both celebrated and emerging writers. More will be added later.

On the computer or phone screen, the pages look like those of a magazine, and there’s a cover and preface as with hard-copy books. There are also articles – trade news, reviews and other items of interest.

“When magazines were flourishing, any author who got his work published earned an automatic guarantee regarding his writing ability,” says Pongsakorn, who has garnered acclaim for the novels “Roi Mai”, “Sab Phusa” and “Kol Kimono”. All three were adapted for television.

Three noted authors are among the site’s founders – by their pennames from left, Pongsakorn, Kingchat and Piyaporn Sakkasem.

“The three of us rose to fame thanks to the editors at the magazines who coached us about suitable content and proper timing,” he says. “From our experience working with them, we can now carefully select the novels and articles appearing at AnOwl. The readers won’t feel that they’re jumping into a sea of content.”

Currently on the site is Pongsakorn’s new novel, “Irrawaddy Kliew Krasip”, inspired by the Burmese sacking of Ayutthaya in 1767, when thousands of citizens were carried off into slavery.

Piyaporn’s latest novel, “Duangjai Rabai See”, is also there, comparing the characters of three men living in New York, Giverny and Auvers-sur-Oise to the colours of red, yellow and blue, based on paintings by Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet and Van Gogh.

And Kingchat continues her series about the mythical Himmapan Forest in “Nin Nakin”, this time using a fresh penname, Alina.

Soi Hong Saeng by Mala Kamchan

Pongsakorn says it’s “an honour” to be publishing the new work “Soi Hong Saeng” by SEA Write Award winner Mala Kamchan. “He was writing the novel for Khwan Ruen magazine, but it shut down before he was finished.”

To keep the content free for as long as possible, none of the contributors are asking for remuneration.

“There are many fiction sites open to rookie writers and it’s hard for any one writer to stand out,” says Piyaporn. “One site might be bombarded with 50,000 submissions, so the readers also have difficulty picking one that meets their preferences.

“So, since we were born from magazines like Sakulthai and Khwan Ruen, we want our site to be a platform for emerging writers and we carefully select works that are interesting and touching.”

Among the new faces is the pen-named Parb, whose detective fiction “Kahon Mahorlatueg” was adapted for a TV drama that’s currently airing on One Channel. His new work, “Ling Padkorn”, is a murder mystery.

Also new on the scene is Karn, whose favourite authors are Agatha Christie and Stephen King. His debut novel is “The Never-ending (Love) Story”.

New fiction website is a digital magazine of carefully selected novels by both celebrated and emerging authors. For now, at least, it’s all free.

Pongsakorn says his personal favourite at the moment is the writer using the penname Nak Hayra, whose work is normally found online. “She graduated in history and has spent more than a decade in South Korea. Her style is very interesting. Her new work with us, ‘Phusa Haeng Racha’, is about the Japanese occupation of Korea during the war.”

Apatsaphorn Supapa, who writes as Pasrasaa, presents her new mystery story at AnOwl, “Game Archa”, with an equestrian theme.

Apatsaphorn, 35, says she’s “a loyal fan” of the site’s founding authors and didn’t hesitate to contribute when they invited her.

“I wasn’t even born during the heyday of magazines, so usually I publish at sites like Dek-d and Fictionlog. There are a lot of fiction websites today, but AnOwl stands out because the works are so well screened.”

Even with so many channels available to writers, says Apatsaphorn – who’s written more than 40 works of fiction in the past 15 years – it’s still not easy to get recognised.

“Older writers had the magazines, but my generation relies mainly on word of mouth. To become famous, we have to be disciplined and determined and write about what we’re really interested in.”

The founders say readership hasn’t declined, but rather consumer behaviour has changed.

An article on AnOwl pays tribute to the late beloved editor Suphat Sawasdirak of Sakulthai weekly magazine, which recently closed after more than 60 years. Sakulthai was the foremost magazine for novelists and gave many noted authors their start, such as Tomyantee and Krisna Asoksin.

Also planned is a series of videos with authors helping chefs prepare dishes mentioned in their books. Ready for posting are demonstrations of how to make the souffle that Kingchat featured in “Sood Saneh Ha” and the oily cooked rice Pongsakorn dreamed up for “Irrawaddy Kliew Krasip”.

Readers will soon find a podcast as well, and an audio series about what’s happening in publishing circles.

Income will be raised through workshops that are being organised on writing fiction, together with the field trips tracking the footsteps of characters in novels.

“I was groomed by Suphat Sawasdirak – such a talented editor,” says Piyaporn. “She once compared a magazine to a meal of dishes cooked with different techniques – boiling, stir-frying, sauteeing, currying, frying, plus desserts and fruit – that satisfies every taste. We want AnOwl to be like that too.”



Keep up to date at and follow the “anowldotco” page on Facebook.

World’s hottest chilli pepper gives man ‘thunderclap’ headaches

The 34-year-old man’s symptoms began with dry heaves “immediately after participation in a hot pepper contest where he ate one Carolina Reaper,” in 2016, said an article published in medical journal BMJ Case Reports.

The man then developed intense neck and head pain, and for several days experienced brief but intense “thunderclap” headaches. Each lasted several seconds.

After seeking emergency care, tests for various neurological conditions came back negative.

In the end, doctors diagnosed him with a temporary brain condition called “reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome” (RCVS), characterised by the temporary narrowing of blood vessels to the brain.

It was the first reported case of a patient being diagnosed with RCVS after eating a chilli pepper, the authors said.

Often accompanied by “thunderclap” headaches, the condition usually occurs as a reaction to certain prescription medications, or after taking illegal drugs.

“It was a big surprise to everyone,” said doctor Kulothungan Gunasekaran of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, one of the authors of the article that warns of the dangers of playing with chilli fire.

– World’s hottest chilli pepper –

The man’s symptoms cleared up by themselves and a follow-up CT scan five weeks after the event showed that his arteries had returned to their normal width.

Eating cayenne pepper has previously been linked to heart attacks, the study authors said.

“We would recommend the general public be cautious when eating chilli peppers and to seek medical attention straight away if you develop symptoms like this,” Gunasekaran warned.

For those who dare, the Carolina Reaper has a fruity, sweet taste with a hint of cinnamon and chocolate undertones, as well as being extremely hot, according to the website of Guinness World Records.

Last year it named the Carolina Reaper — a cross between Sweet Habanero and Naga Viper chillies — as the hottest pepper on Earth. It is grown by a producer in South Carolina.

It rates at an average of 1,641,183 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), according to tests conducted by Winthrop University in South Carolina in 2017.

A Jalapeno can score anything between 2,500 to 8,000 SHU on the scale, Guinness World Records said.

In November 2016, a new record of 120 grammes (just over four ounces) of Carolina Reaper were eaten in one minute at a competition in Arizona.

Songkran excitement at One Siam

The campaign celebrates Songkran and cultural heritage and offers a chance to pay respect to Buddha images, taste classic Thai dishes and book exciting travel experience.

“Thais and foreign tourists can enjoy the traditional Thai atmosphere and culture,” says Siam Piwat senior executive vice president Mayuree Chaipromprasith.

Siam Paragon will have a “Wonderful Songkran” in its Hall of Fame with nine sacred ancient Buddha statues borrowed from the National Museum.

They are a Standing Buddha in Double Preaching, Phra Buddha Ratta Mahamuni, Medicine Buddha, Buddha Subduing Mara, Buddha Holding a Talapatta, Reclining Buddha, Buddha Calming the Ocean, Buddha Stopping the Relatives from Fighting and Surrounding Buddha (Phra Lom, Phra Haroi).

There’ll be demonstrations on how to make the perfume nam ob and bai toey flowers, an exhibition Thai history and traditions and a food festival in Parc Paragon.

The Songkran Food Fest: Taste of Thai Tradition will have more than 50 famous dishes – rice, noodles, desserts, appetisers and beverages. You can try khao chae Petchaburi, prang nara pork balls, chao wang fried pork, grilled chicken and beef baan kanom thai chao wang, pork sago and much more.

Sea Life Bangkok will present the animated show “Amazing Story from the Deep Sea” on a 10-metre screen, while Paragon Cineplex is encouraging everyone to wear period costumes.

Siam Center’s Ideaopolis has the “Summer Journey Exhibition” of new travel experiences promoted through simulations and hip bistros such Chiang Mai’s RK Cafe by Omnia will be setting up shop.

Siam Discovery’s “Summer Exploratorium” will feature digital art installations where your favourite travel photos posted on Instagram with the hashtags #godiscoversummer and #siamdiscovery can vie for prizes capped by a year’s free travel with AirAsia.

Ten second-place winners will receive Bt5,000 gift vouchers.

Siam Discovery will also be hosting temporary food stalls set up by the likes of Chao Le Crispy Mussel Pancake, Nai Aun Yen Ta Fo Noodle, and Steamed Chives Dumpling Khun Mae.

Find out more at (02) 610 8000.


Songkran with a Smile

From Friday to April 17, the bakery run by chef Pongthawat “Ian” Chalermkittichai will serve Muffin with a mango financier from France sprinkled with mango and coconut, Choux Cream Mango with sweet mango, Pandan Chiffon Cake soaked in mango sauce, and Lemon Poppy Seed Cake topped with sesame and lemon glaze. They’ll be available on domestic and international flights, except for WE177, WE333/334, WE335/336, WE343/344, WE426, WE420 WE696/697 and WE288.

Online booking can be made at

In full bloom

South Korea’s Goryeosan Mountain is laying out a carpet of flowers to welcome tourists to its annual Azalea Festival running from Saturday to April 22.

This is the biggest floral festival in Ganghwado and a popular picnic spot for lovers and families during spring, while the flowers are in full bloom. Fans of Korean TV series should pay special attention to the mountain, which is said to be the birthplace of General Yeongaesomun.

Find out more at the KTO Thailand page on Facebook.

An offer you can’t refuse

Onyx Hospitality Group will beat the summer heat with a special deal that is limited to a 48-hour booking period on April 28 and 29.

Based on local time of each destination, guests can simply visit” and use the promotional code “SuperSale” to get up to 50-per-cent discounts at more than 30 properties under Amari, Ozo and Shama brands.

Valid for stays from April 28 to November 30, the packages include a minimum of two-night stay with breakfast for two.

Lighting up a velvet night

Travellers looking for a holiday escape can check out the Stars & Sky package at Anantara Kihavah, Maldives that’s available from now until December 22.

Starting at Bt49,860 for a minimum of three-night stay, the promotion offers private stargazing with the Sky guru, the Slumber Guru Massage experience, cinema under the stars, daily breakfast for two, dinner at Salt or Manzaru and round-trip seaplane transfers.

Make a reservation at or email

Designer destination

Families spending the long holidays in Milan can take advantage of the Stay with Your Family package being offered by the Armani Hotel Milano.

Starting at 1,138 euros (Bt43,700) for an Armani Deluxe Room, families will be rewarded with American breakfast at the Armani/Ristorante, 25-per-cent discount on a second room with American breakfast, kids welcome gift upon arrival, special in-room amenities, cocktail in the panoramic Armani/Bamboo Bar for all family members, complimentary room upgrade to a superior room and complimentary late check-out subject to availability.

Make your plans by emailing


In the spirit of Isaan

Chang Chui, which bills itself as “a hip space offering new-generation artists and designers the opportunity to can unleash their artistic ability without restraint”, is aiming to draw the water-fighting crowds away from such traditional Songkran spots as Royal City Avenue, Silom and and Khao San roads with a festival dubbed “Isaan Spirit, that runs from today through May 6.

“Chang Chui is the first creative park in Thailand, and is located on 21 rai of land here in Thon Buri,” says Chanokporn Thinphangnga, the site’s general manager.

“We’ve been open for nine months and have already become a tourist destination. This month, which incorporates the Thai New Year, we want to preserve and promote the arts, culture and traditions of Isaan and to do this, we have invited three artists born in the Kingdom’s Northeast to display their work. Also joining us is Thai makeup artist Amata “Pearypie” Chittasenee who is not an Isaan native but loves the Northeast. The four will showcase art, photographs, ready-to-wear fashion clothing, and mor lam music.

“Though the Isaan Spirit Festival, we will turn Songkran in Bangkok into an enjoyable, creative and safe holiday. The space is being decorated with several icons symbolising Isaan culture and traditions, and will feature demonstrations of rice farming complete with scarecrows and buffaloes and a giant bamboo chedi next to a sand pit where parents and children can have fun creating sand pagodas. We are hoping to welcome lots of foreign tourists and introduce them to the Isaan culture and have them join with Thai visitors in celebrating Songkran,” she adds.

The festival, which will be open daily from 11 to 9, also supports the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s campaign to promote the Northeast under the slogan “Isaan Saeb Nua” or “Cool Isaan.”

“I personally love the Northeast, which boasts plenty of natural wonders and some of the friendliest people in Thailand. Chang Chui is setting out to bring the mood and tone of Isaan to this tiny part of Bangkok, so we think that it will be a good chance for both Thais and foreigners to experience the Isaan culture and traditions before travelling to the region,” says Noppadon Pakprot, deputy governor for TAT’s tourism products and business.

Live shows will be held throughout the event, with Thai makeup artist Amata showing off her skills on April 21, painter Maitree Siriboon on April 28, morlam singer Rasmee Wayrana on April 29, and designer Apichet “Madaew’” Atirattana on May 5. Other displays include a folk fabric art fair from four Isaan provinces, Maha Sarakham’s Kratib Puppet Show, which is performed with puppets made of bamboo sticky rice containers, as well as Isaan food, buffalo husbandry and traditional plays.

“I’d describe my work as a kind of pop art because I paint buffaloes, changing their identity from black-skinned animals to beasts decorated in bright colours. The paint is non-toxic and makes them look cute, which gives them added value. I will paint three buffaloes as part of a live performance and estimate that will take about three hours. This will be the first time I’ll do it in front of an audience,” says Ubon Ratchathani-born artist Maitree, who will also be putting on his “Save Thai Buffalo” photo exhibition, which debuted back in 2015.

“I would like to encourage Thais to build a brand. My brand is ‘Isaan Boy Dream’. When I was very young, I used to sit on the edge of the paddy field and look up at the sky. The first time I saw a plane, I told myself that one day I would go around the world. When I grew up, I graduated from Silpakorn University and my art led me to see the world,” he continues.

“Branding is important. Now I am looking to build a brand for Nong Bo, the village where I grew up, because I really want to put it on the tourist map and in so doing, generate income for the residents. I hope it will also be an inspiration for the kids attending my academy, encouraging them to speak English and learning how to use social media to their benefit.”

Khon Kaen-born fashion designer Madaew, who rose to fame on YouTube, also likes to decorate buffaloes though he does it with fabric rather than paint.

“When I was young, I picked up a fashion magazine at a barber and couldn’t tear my eyes away from the model’s beautiful clothes. When I went home, I asked my mother to get me a Barbie doll and started sewing clothes for it. We were a poor family and my parents couldn’t afford to pay for good fabrics, so I dressed the doll in materials I found around the house. These days, I enjoy creating fashion to mix and match with the buffalo. We have a saying in Thai that a person is as stupid as a buffalo, but buffaloes are not stupid. I’ve been around them since I was a kid – my parents used to raise them – and now I am creating fashion shows that mix human’s DNA with the buffalo,” says the Madaew, who will stage a fashion show appropriately titled “Human or Buffalo? Which Human? Which Buffalo?”

Bangkok-born chef Thitiwat “Mai” Tantragarn, who runs the insect-oriented restaurant Insects in the Backyard at Chang Chui, will present two new dishes – “Ravioli Kung Chom” (ravioli with fermented shrimp) and “Larb Maeng Sading” (spicy minced house cricket).

“I’m giving the Isaan delicacy kung chom (fermented shrimp) an Italian twist by wrapping it in ravioli pockets, I hoping it will be eaten by both Thai and foreign visitors,” says Thitiwat, who is better known as Chef Mai, and whose restaurant has become internationally known through the BBC and The New York Times.

“We are like a model for the restaurant of the future.”

Nostalgic for the Northeast

– The “Isaan Spirit Festival” runs from today through May 6. It’s open daily from 11am to 9pm.

– Find out more by calling the TAT Call Centre at 1672, Chang Chui at (081) 817 2888, or visit and Facebook/changchuibangkok.


Healthy oven-baked fajitas recipe

Close your eyes and imagine the sound and smell of sizzling hot fajitas. Hungry yet? Next time you are craving this Tex-Mex favorite, make it at home. This heart-healthy, low-sodium meal can be prepared in no time, making it the perfect weeknight dinner.

Oven-baked tender, marinated chicken and colorful peppers and onions cook quickly in this family-pleasing dish. Like it spicy? Add sliced jalapeño or poblano peppers to the mix. For a vegetarian option, replace the chicken breast with sliced portobello mushrooms. Ingredients can be prepped ahead of time and refrigerated until you are ready to toss them into the oven.


1 ½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon kosher salt, optional
1 ½ lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lime
3 bell peppers, red, green, orange, or yellow
1 large white onion

For serving

  • Whole wheat tortillas.
  • Cilantro.
  • Extra limes.


  1. In a small bowl combine the chili powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, brown sugar, cumin and salt (if using). Set aside.

  1. Clean chicken breasts of any fat and slice across the grain into ¼ inch strips. Place chicken in a large zip-top bag and add vegetable oil and the spice mixture. Zest the peel of the lime into the bag and reserve the lime. Seal bag and massage thoroughly to ensure the chicken is completely covered in the spice mixture. At this point chicken can be refrigerated until ready to use.

  1. Slice peppers and onions into ¼ inch strips. Refrigerate until ready to assemble.

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Place a heavy rimmed baking sheet in the oven for 5 minutes. Add peppers and onions to the seasoned bag of chicken and shake to coat vegetables with any excess seasoning.
  2. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and immediately spread chicken and peppers over it in a single layer. Return pan to the oven and cook for ten minutes. Stir ingredients and drain any excess liquid. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and vegetables are tender. If desired, squeeze the reserved lime over the chicken and vegetables. Serve hot with whole wheat tortillas.

Serves 6.


Calories 177 Total Fat 5 g
Saturated Fat 0 g Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 2 g Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 81 mg Sodium 98 mg
Potassium 178 mg Total Carbohydrate 8 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g Sugars 4 g
Protein 27 g


Roasted root vegetables

The colors and flavors of fall come alive in this easy, healthy roasted root vegetable side dish. These often under-appreciated vegetables are chock full of vitamins and minerals and are a great source of fiber. Roasting root vegetables until caramelized and tender brings out their best flavor by encouraging their natural sweetness.

This dish is easily customizable and can be made with a variety of root vegetables. Other options include parsnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi and celeriac.


1 lb beets, scrubbed and peeled
1 lb carrots, scrubbed and peeled
1 lb turnips, scrubbed and peeled
1 lb sweet potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
½ medium red onion, skin removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 425°.

  1. Cut all vegetables into 1 ½ inch cubes or wedges. Be sure to cut pieces as uniformly as possible so they will finish cooking at the same time.

  1. On a large baking sheet combine all vegetables and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and a few grinds of black pepper. If desired, lightly season with salt. Stir to combine all ingredients, coating them (and the pan) with olive oil. Spread ingredients into a single layer.

  1. Roast vegetables for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and stir. Cook for an additional 10 – 15 minutes or until all ingredients are tender and cooked through. Serve hot.

Serves 8-10.


Nutrition for 8 servings.

Calories 112 Total Fat 2 g
Saturated Fat 0 g Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg Sodium 124 mg
Potassium 549 mg Total Carbohydrate 22 g
Dietary Fiber 5 g Sugars 9 g
Protein 2 g


Win the weekend with this Olympic seven-layer dip recipe

Were the ancient Greeks the true inventors of America’s favorite tailgate party food? Probably not, but this Greek style seven-layer dip is a delicious protein-packed, healthier riff on a game-day classic. It’s super-easy to make, and you can save even more time by substituting store-bought hummus for homemade — just be sure to pick a low-sodium brand.

Ingredients can be prepped the day before, stored separately and assembled right before serving. Be sure to drain any liquid that may have accumulated overnight. This recipe feeds a party but can be easily halved for a smaller group.


2 15oz cans of chickpeas, no salt added
1 clove of garlic
1 lemon, divided
2 cups non-fat Greek yogurt, divided
2 tablespoons tahini, optional
2 teaspoons fresh dill, optional
2 tablespoons red onion, finely minced
1 cup English (seedless) cucumber, diced
1 cup fresh tomato (seeds and liquid removed), diced
½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled


  1. Drain and rinse canned chickpeas. Add chickpeas, garlic, the juice of ½ a lemon, tahini (if using) and ½ cup Greek yogurt to the bowl of a food processor.

  1. Blend until completely smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Refrigerate hummus until ready to use.

  1. In a small bowl, mix together 1 ½ cups Greek yogurt, juice of ½ a lemon, and 2 teaspoons fresh dill if using. Refrigerate until ready to use.

  1. On a large platter or in a 9 × 13 casserole dish begin layering the ingredients. Create a base by covering the bottom of the dish with a layer of hummus and then spread the prepared yogurt over top.

  1. Sprinkle red onions over the yogurt and continue to layer with cucumber, tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta.

  1. Serve with whole wheat baked pita chips.

Serves 16. Serving size: approximately ½ cup.


Calories 106 Total Fat 3 g
Saturated Fat 1 g Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 5 mg Sodium 154 mg
Potassium 175 mg Total Carbohydrate 12 g
Dietary Fiber 2 g Sugars 2 g
Protein 7 g


Soup night! Make some minestrone

Chilly winter nights require steaming hot bowls of soup; it’s science! Packed with heart-healthy vegetables and beans, hearty minestrone soup is easy to throw together, low in sodium, and it will fill you up while it warms you up.

This is a great recipe for using up vegetable odds and ends that may be lingering in your fridge. Leftover green beans? Toss them in the pot. Swiss chard, kale and cabbage are excellent substitutes for baby spinach — just be sure to increase the cooking time of your greens so they have enough time to become tender.


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled
2 celery stalks
1 small zucchini
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 14.5 oz can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 32 oz carton (4 cups) no-salt-added chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups of water
2 15 oz cans no salt added kidney or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup small pasta (ditallini, orzo, elbow or mini shells), uncooked
2 packed cups of baby spinach (cabbage, Swiss chard and kale are great substitutes)
Optional, chopped Italian parsley
Optional, grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Quarter carrots and zucchini lengthwise and slice into bite-sized pieces. Cut celery in half lengthwise and slice into bite-sized half moons.

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.

  1. Add basil, oregano, carrots and celery to the pot and stir to combine. Stir in canned tomatoes with their liquid, broth and water. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are just tender, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add zucchini and rinsed beans to the pot. Bring to soup back to a simmer and continue to cook until zucchini is tender and beans are hot, about 15 minutes.

  1. While soup is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside until soup is ready.

  1. Stir cooked pasta and spinach into soup and simmer until heated through and spinach is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot. If desired, garnish with chopped parsley and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8. Makes 12 cups.


Nutrition per cup.

Calories 127 Total Fat 1 g
Saturated Fat 0 g Monounsaturated Fat 0 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg Sodium 46 mg
Potassium 453 mg Total Carbohydrate 23 g
Dietary Fiber 8 g Sugars 3 g
Protein 7 g


The Definitive Guide to Picking a Sports Performance Trainer

Youth sports are now big business. That may sound crazy, but it’s true. Every year parents spend exorbitantly to give their children as much opportunity as possible, or at least to keep up with everyone else. Once common, three-sport high school athletes are a rare-to-extinct breed in this world of year-round seasons, skills coaches, showcases, and strength and conditioning gurus. Even with a growing industry built on exploitation, many youth athletes still wonder how to navigate this world. In particular, how to best choose a sports performance trainer?

Strength and conditioning, like most fields, is full of good and bad apples. Consumers must be aware of incompetent posers spouting nonsensical, baseless training philosophies who fumble through gimmicky methods that they do not understand.

This sounds harsh, but parents must prudently approach trainer selection. YouTube makes it easier than ever to throw together several flashy exercises in ways that do more harm than good. Social media allows anyone to gain a larger audience and create a loyal following thrilled to have their ego stroked by trainers who post about them constantly. Select organizations and parents are, in effect, paying for a babysitter who gets the kids moving.

Trainers who know only the “cool” exercises, who don’t understand the fundamental principles of strength and conditioning will not make athletes better in the long run, and they could actually make them worse. Almost everything makes youth athletes stronger, faster, and better conditioned in the short-term. This is the beauty of training young athletes with low training age: timing and genetics are on your side. As they progress past baseline competencies, it becomes essential to account for other training variables and to program towards specific outcomes.

While this is not a piece about training science or periodization, parents must understand that more training is not necessarily better for adaptation. Incompatible, poorly timed, or poorly executed training methods can negate good work and reinforce patterns that make injury and overuse likely. There is a difference between training and working out. Beach Body may be great for fat loss in your 30’s, but it’s a terrible high school athletic development program.

Training Principles Over Workout Methods

“As to methods, there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no a shortage of really good strength and conditioning coaches, but many are confused about how to find them and how to know the difference between good and bad. As a parent, this can feel overwhelming. How can you make a well-informed decision about who should train your child without immersing yourself in studies of bio-energetics, physiology, and training principles?

When looking for a qualified strength and conditioning coach, look for a few certifications. I am partial to the CSCS and the CSCCa certifications. Both do a phenomenal job preparing trainers to train for athletic performance. Great additions that include practical application, not just book study, are the RKC, SFG, and USAW certifications. Unfortunately, trainers with numerous certifications might have slipped through the cracks and fail actually coach in the manner they were taught. Likewise, there are a million other routes to develop tremendous sport-performance coaching ability. A trainer can intern under a master like Mike Boyle, Mike Robertson, Eric Cressey, Exos, or any of the other tremendous training facilities. There are also exceptionally good trainers with a NASM, ACE, ISSA, or other certification. Certification is a good starting point, but not the end all be all.

Find a Chef, Not a Cook

I would insist on some sort of credential other than participation in college athletics or even in “the league.” In my experience, former athletes are the most common trainers and the least qualified. I do not necessarily blame these men and women. I understand why they think that they are trainers. They know how to do the exercises and have been through all the workouts. However, following a chef’s commands or recipe does not make you a chef. Likely, you would be lost if the chef were removed. Chefs understand cooking principles and all possible variables and combinations. These former athletes are not chefs. They are dangerous because they know only ingredients, but have no cookbook, no recipe. They triple the sugar, cut the flour in half, and forget the yeast.

The Definitive Guide to Picking a Sports Performance Trainer - Fitness, youth athletes, competitive sports, choosing a trainer, youth sports, youth development, principles

Simplifying the Process for Parents

I’ve created the following questionnaire to score trainers on how qualified they are to train your son or daughter. If insulted by your insistence on these questions, the trainer might not be a good fit. You are looking to hire, so approach this decision as an interview. Some of these questions may not seem applicable to your situation, but they are still essential to determine the trainer’s competency and ethics. I have included possible answers. Do not let the candidate see these. Rather, make an informed decision as to which answer his or her response most reflects.

The Definitive Guide to Selecting a Sports Performance Trainer

a. Good Response: 3 Points

b. OK Response: 1 Point

c. Possible Deal-Breaker Response: 0 Points

  1. My son/daughter trains at school with his/her team a few days a week. How will that impact your training in regards to frequency, duration, intensity, etc? Do you need to know what nights he/she practices and plays games?
    1. Good: Any response that mentions the need to account for all training stressors and that communicates a need to understand the school team’s workouts. He or she should mention the need to communicate with the coaches.
    2. OK: He/she makes it clear that this is important and that he/she will be certain to always communicate with your son/daughter about planning.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: Any nonchalance about other training.
  2. His/her sport demands speed. How can he/she become faster?
    1. Good: Any response that mentions strength relative to body weight or “relative strength.” Any response that talks about sprinting and jumping (but not as conditioning). Any response that talks about getting stronger. Any response that concedes that while speed can be trained, genetics are a limiting factor.
    2. OK: He/she vaguely mentions strength and power, and/or running sprints and jumping.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: If he/she mostly discusses conditioning. Speed must be trained at max output with full recovery. Anyone who hears the word speed and thinks conditioning is not qualified to train your son or daughter. Also sleds, parachutes, and box jumps are often gimmicks. He/she should know that they must be reserved for short distances and lower reps at max output.
  3. What would the first session with you look like?
    1. Good: Focuses discussion on evaluation, baseline, teaching, etc.
    2. OK: Vaguely mentions assessment.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: “Exhausting! He/she will hurt all over!” While soreness is likely, particularly at first, an emphasis on exhaustion is a very bad sign.
  4. How soon will you have him/her lifting heavy and maxing?
    1. Good: A response that recognizes that your son/daughter needs to demonstrate safe movement patterns over a few sessions with low to medium weights. If your child is younger than 15, it may be completely unnecessary to lift heavy. If the trainer doesn’t believe it important for your son/daughter at this junction that may be a very wise decision, just as it could be true that heavy lifting would be very beneficial.
    2. OK: Vague, but references a need to assess.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: Anything extreme. From “it will be the first thing we do” to “athletes should never lift heavy.” Demonizing strength training, regardless of sport, could be a very bad sign.
  5. How much rest would he/she have between sets? Say, between sets of three squats.
    1. Good: Two or more minutes. Exceptions might include mention of cluster training, supersets, etc.
    2. OK: Vague, but mentions a need for rest between sets
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: Less than 90 seconds. If he/she talks about “sport specific” time intervals and “functional training” here, they likely don’t understand basic strength training, the foundation of speed and power. “Sport-specific” is another buzz word that often indicates substituting gimmicks for an understanding of training principles.
  6. (Follow up to above question) What would you have him/her do during that rest time?
    1. Good: Any mention of breathing exercise, mobility exercises, a small number of jumps, or activation exercises.
    2. OK: Nothing. While I don’t love the idea of paying for a lot of downtime, it is better to rest between sets than to rush sets and ruin progress.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: Any reference to conditioning.
  7. I saw (make up a famous sports athlete) doing really cool ladder drills. What do you think about ladder training for footwork?
    1. Good: Any response that recognizes ladder drills fit in the warm-up and as early coordination training, but don’t have much benefit long-term. “Footwork” is a buzz word that often means very little. Another acceptable response might be: “I’m not a big believer in ladder drills”
    2. OK: Vague response that acknowledges the use of ladder drills, but does not make them out to be any sort of “holy grail”.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: Insistently proclaims how great his/her program is for footwork. Goes into great detail about all the ladder drills he/she knows and how much of his/her program is taken from professionals. It is very easy to find videos of professionals working out. Copying their program is a recipe for disaster.
  8. I’ve been taking him/her to CrossFit and doing lots of box jumps so he/she should be really powerful already, right?
    1. Good: Any response that notes the difference between conditioning and power. A good trainer will probably mention how unsafe it can be to do box jumps for conditioning and will probably mention needing to account for any future CrossFit sessions.
    2. OK: A respectful inquiry as to whether you plan to keep taking him/her to CrossFit workouts.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: Enthusiastic support for high-rep box jumps and a promise to continue them in your son/daughter’s future training.
  9. What are your suggestions about nutrition for him/her? (Nutritional demands will vary greatly depending on goals and current background. However, a few things are fairly constant and a few responses are major red flags.)
    1. Good: Any remark that humbly notes the limitations of a strength coach’s expertise, while recommending a balanced and moderate approach that features lean meats with fruits and vegetables. Beans, nuts, and whole grains are also probably good suggestions. He/she should not mention dieting or starting with a ton of supplements, although suggesting whey protein is fine. He/she does not mention counting calories or purchasing expensive eating programs. Advice focuses on long-term habits rather than quick fixes.
    2. OK: He/she notes the importance of nutrition but recommends speaking to someone more qualified.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: He/she pushes counting calories and pretends to have an idea of exactly how many your son/daughter needs each day. Promotion of numerous supplements is also a red flag, particularly if they are all from the same company.
  10. Should I worry about recovery or overtraining?
    1. Good: He/she discusses the importance of eating a balanced diet, sleeping eight or more hours a night, avoiding overtraining, and having balance and relaxation in their lives. Add a bonus point if he/she brings up recovery practices like stretching or meditation. Add another bonus point if he/she mentions the challenges of overspecialization and playing the same sport year-round.
    2. OK: A vague yes.
    3. Possible Deal-Breaker: Anything along the lines of “Nah, these kids are resilient. When I was their age I’d run a few miles in P.E., then go lift after school, and then play a varsity basketball game.” While I agree that it is possible to thrive in fatigue and to reach exceptional levels of stamina, advice like this ignores the principles of progression and adaptation.


Add up all the points.

  • 20 – 30 Points: Consider hiring as long as you also got a good feel for his /her ethics and ability to connect with your son or daughter.
  • 10 – 19 Points: Approach with extreme caution. Perhaps he or she is great but struggles to communicate or understand the questions well. A simple plan can be brutally effective, but I’d eliminate this candidate if there were more than one responses that graded as “Possible Deal-Breaker”.
  • 9 or Fewer Points: Why are you still standing there. Don’t walk. Run!