Summer blockbuster tally, part 9

I’m starting to think that Ben Stiller and I just don’t have the same sense of humor. I really don’t like his humiliation-humor movies (Meet the Parents, There’s Something About Mary, etc.) and, while I don’t mind the others (Zoolander…any others?), I don’t think they’re as brilliant as a lot of people do. And I think that trend pretty much continues with Tropic Thunder.

I went because a) I like everybody in it (yes, for some reason I still like Ben Stiller even though I don’t usually find him funny) and b) Entertainment Weekly gave it an A. An A! They don’t usually just hand those out, especially not to the summer blockbusters. And, while there were funny parts in the movie, I wasn’t laughing uproariously the whole time like I expected I would.

The trailers at the beginning are funny (seriously, the Kirk Lazarus/Tobey Maguire monk movie needs to be made, like, now), Tom Cruise is funny (something I never thought I’d say), and the beginning is funny. The payoff of the ending is worth sitting through the movie for as everything comes together, but I thought things dragged a bit in the middle. (I will admit that I made the mistake of sitting slightly too close to the screen – I always think ‘Oh, middle!’ when actually the back of middle is best – so I had a bit of a headache for most of the time which may have had something to do with my enjoying the movie.)

I think the funniest thing was the demographic of my fellow moviegoers. There was me, a small group of probably college-aged guys, two ladies probably in their mid-fifties who laughed like there was no tomorrow through pretty much the whole thing, and, I swear I’m not making this up, a woman who had to have been, like 87 years old on her own who seemed to be having a fantastic time!

So if you’re a Ben Stiller fan, you’ll probably love it. If not, I’d say it’s definitely worth renting (or downloading, if you can find it), but save your $7 or whatever and skip it in the theater.

Summer blockbuster tally = 4-4-1

Uh-oh, summer blockbusters, you only have about a month left to end the season with a winning tally and I can’t think of what’s left to make it up…

Playing catch-up…

I am very far behind in my posting. Shamefully so! My department at work had a potluck-type party on Thursday and my contribution was Strawberry-Balsamic Cupcakes.

It all went swimmingly until the first step of the recipe when I misread how much butter was supposed to go into the batter vs. how much was supposed to be reserved for the frosting. Which I didn’t notice until I went to take them out of the oven after the suggested 20 minutes and found them to be sunken and not nearly done.

Though not really surprised, given my oven’s lack of selfrespect, I skimmed through the recipe again to make sure I’d done everything right, when I finally noticed that, in the instructions for the frosting , it said ‘Cream together the butter and cream cheese until well-blended.’

Whoops.

Sure enough, back at the top of the ingredient list, it said ‘1 1/2 sticks of butter, divided.’ In my defense, it doesn’t tell you how it should be divided, but it was easy enough to figure out when I went back to the original recipe. So, my cupcakes didn’t turn out to be very stunning, I’m afraid. They were edible (though a bit more dense than they should have been – more muffin than cupcake), so I just piled a ton of frosting on to hide their sunken tops and chalked it up to experience.

But I’m not going to show you a picture of them. Here’s the corrected recipe (at least, according to my math, so you might want to check it out for yourself, just to be sure):

Strawberry-Balsamic Cupcakes (Adapted from Burghilicious)

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup strawberry-balsamic syrup (see recipe below)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare a muffin tin. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, combine strawberry-balsamic syrup and milk.

In a large bowl, beat butter on high for 30 seconds. Add sugar and beat on medium-high until light and fluffy, up to 3 minutes. Add eggs and beat some more to incorporate lots of air into the batter. Lower the speed to medium and add the dry mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of the strawberry-balsamic syrup/milk mixture.

Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cups (the original recipe says it yields 12 cupcakes, but I got 18). Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Strawberry-Balsamic Syrup

  • 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries and sugar and let them sit for 15 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and put over medium heat. Cook for about 15 minutes,* then puree in a blender or food processor.** Push through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the seeds.

This makes more than it takes for the cupcakes and the frosting and can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to two weeks or frozen.

*I…may or may not be speaking from experience when I say, don’t leave this cooking on the stove to go watch an episode of Top Gear or you run the risk of having to wipe a lot of sticky balsamic vinegar off your stove when you run back into the kitchen after it boils over.
**This is where an immersion blender comes in super-handy.

Frosting

  • 1/4 cup strawberry-balsamic syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar

Combine the strawberry-balsamic syrup with the balsamic vinegar. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until well-blended. Add the strawberry-balsamic syrup/balsamic vinegar mixture. Then add, powdered sugar, a cup at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency and flavor.

Frost cooled cupcakes and top with a sliced strawberry. Keep refrigerated until an hour before serving.

Yield 12-18 cupcakes.