Banana Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Nutella

Today we were having trouble with one of our cars, so going to the gym to work out wasn’t really possible. Evidently it needs a new starter, so we were down to one car. I did my long run yesterday, so it was supposed to be a recovery day anyway. However, when I don’t go to the gym I need to find something to do to keep Oleg (and myself) entertained. He likes helping with baking, so I decided to bake up some muffins. I had some old bananas around that were just right for making banana muffins, so I decided to go with that, with a few special tweaks. For instance we don’t put nuts in muffins – we put chocolate chips. Because they are better that way.

By the way, did you know that you can store overripe bananas in the freezer? It’s true. They always seem to go bad one or two at a time and you usually need 3 or 4 for baking. Just freeze them as they go bad and use them for muffins or banana bread once you have enough.

These are the muffins we made and they are every bit as ridiculously awesome as the name suggests.

Banana Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Nutella

Dry Ingredients
2 cups flour (1 cup whole wheat, 1 cup white)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients
4 overripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Add Ins
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Nutella

Ready? Let’s go. Gather your ingredients.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl (I actually just used a large measuring cup), stir together the dry ingredients until they are well mixed. Set aside. Oleg wants you to know he was in charge of this part. He did a very good job.

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In a large bowl (I just throw everything into the bowl of a large stand mixer), pour in and mix together the wet ingredients.

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When all wet ingredients are incorporated, slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until wet and dry ingredients are fully incorporated.

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Stir in the chocolate chips.

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Grease a muffin tin with butter. Kids can help with this part.

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Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into each muffin cup, filling each cup about 1/2 full (should fill all cups of one muffin tin). When tins are filled, scoop a small dollop of Nutella (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon) onto the top of each muffin batter.

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Swirl a toothpick around in the Nutella and batter to give a marbled effect.

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Bake in oven for 12 to 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean (a little Nutella may stick, but the batter should not). Makes 12 muffins.

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Oleg gives these his seal of approval. You can trust him. Not only is he an excellent baking assistant, he’s also a noted connoisseur of baked goods. His first English word was “cookie,” after all.

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The Adventure Zone

My basic running routine is running on the treadmill 2 or 3 days a week at my local YMCA, with one long outdoor run on the weekend. This is basically for child care reasons. The Y has free child care but I have to stay inside the building, therefore, the majority of running has to be done indoors. They have a big indoor jungle gym called the Adventure Zone where my younger son Oleg plays while I work out. Therefore, we call going to workout “going to the Adventure Zone,” which makes it all sound fun and exciting (and less like I am pawning him off on the nice ladies so I can run).

This arrangement works out pretty well, even if it is slightly less thrilling than the title of this post would suggest. Oleg has a good time there, makes friends and gets some energy out. I get a little time alone (albeit around a bunch of other people) and get my run on. I still would prefer being outside most days, but this time of year it takes the sting out of being stuck on the treadmill when I look out the window and see heavy grey clouds, and rain, and wind. Although today was actually pretty nice – windy and cool, but sunny. But for most of the last couple of weeks the weather has been crap, which makes being a hamster on a wheel seem less tedious.

I usually try to do various things to keep my interest level up while I am on the treadmill. Sometimes I try to work on speed a bit, other times I might focus on form, and sometimes I just do a boring run where I hold the same pace the whole time. Zzzzzz…anyway, I usually try to keep my brain engaged somehow.

Today I worked a bit on form, wearing the Merrell barefoot glove shoes that I have, and also ran some tempo pace pick ups. I can’t hold any kind of pace for a very long time in these shoes – my feet get too tired. You are supposed to land more forward on the balls of your feet rather than pounding down on your heels, which is what I typically do. Since I am hoping to work up to the half and then full marathon distance within a year, I am hoping doing some runs in these a couple times a week will help me to get a bit lighter on my feet and improve form so I can stay injury free.

I like the barefoot shoes a lot, I like how they make me feel more engaged with what my body is doing. But I don’t think I would try to run very far in them – it would probably take years to improve my foot strike enough to where that wouldn’t be colossally stupid. But, I figure I can run a few miles a week in them to sort of change things up and maybe get some incremental form improvement out of it. And that would be a good thing.

I also worked a bit on keeping my legs a bit wider apart, so between the two, it was actually quite difficult to do at the pace I was running. I am definitely feeling it now in my feet and ankles, as well as my hips. No pain, just that feeling when your body lets you know you were doing something different.

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Do you run on the treadmill? What do you do to keep it interesting?

A Big Accomplishment for a Small Person – and I Ran

Tuesdays are crazy around here. Both boys have swimming at separate times, plus one has soccer practice and usually about 2 hours of homework (yes, in first grade. Poor guy!). By the end of the day we are all pretty much just running on fumes.

Oleg is currently in preschool in the afternoons (or Pre-K as he will strongly remind you), and still at nearly 5 years old is good for a 2 or 3 hour nap on most afternoons when we can fit it in. Because of these reasons, he takes his swim lesson in the morning. This is usually right in the middle of the time when I work out, so I have to work around it.

On the subject of Oleg’s swimming, I have to laugh, because for a year he has been enrolled in Pike level at our local Y. I think he’s on his 4th or 5th time through the class. This is because although he loves to swim it’s been a struggle for him to get his body and his brain all wrapped around the actual act of swimming. He just could not physically do it. Also, when we had him in afternoon lessons, he would be so freaked out by the noise level in the pool that he would basically be mentally out to lunch the entire time. So, we kept enrolling in Pike and he would pick up one or two skills each time but was just not ready to pass on to the next level.

We think learning to swim is important as a safety precaution, so we figured we’d just keep trying until he got it. Well, finally, one year later, he is getting it. It helps that at the end of August we went to DisneyWorld, where he got to spend an hour or two in the pool every day. But also, he is physically more coordinated and mentally starting to make connections he couldn’t before. And finally, the morning lessons are quiet enough that he is more able to focus and stay calm. So finally after a year of doing “Chicken-airplane-rocket” at the Pike level, he gets to move up to Eel. It’s a big accomplishment for the little guy.

Usually, during swim lessons is when I try to do my running. I get to kill two birds with one stone – I am not there at the lesson to draw Oleg’s attention away from his teacher, and I get the run done at the same time. But yesterday I decided to watch the lesson instead. This meant that when the lesson was done I had to rush to get the running done and didn’t have much time for strength work. So I decided to make it as good of a run as I could, and do a longer strength workout today.

It turned out to be a good run. This includes warm up and cool down and so the pace was pretty good.

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After the run, I did leg and core strengthening. That meant that today, I needed to mainly focus on arms, shoulders, and hips. Plus core which is kind of a daily thing. So that’s what I did – and not much more, because Oleg really needed a nap today, due to waking up at 2, 4 and 6 am, and being crabby as a result. He is normally a good sleeper, but being enrolled in school, swimming and soccer is probably about one thing more than he can really handle, so he has been getting very tired. And when he gets tired, he doesn’t sleep as well. Which is kind of counterintuitive, but that seems to be the deal with kids sometimes.