Pay a Bill
NorthShore’s online source for timely health and wellness news, inspiring patient stories and tips to lead a healthy life.
If you’re planning a spring break staycation (and even if you’re not!) we’ve got a great activity you can enjoy with your kids. We teamed up with our friends at Familia Kitchen who show us how to make authentic Arepas de queso, the star of Encanto.
Instead of popcorn, munch on Arepas de queso and cue the movie!
By Kim Caviness
Arepas de queso play a starring role in Encanto, which shines a light on Colombia the way Coco did for Mexico. This Disney película, with music by one of our favorite Boricuas Lin-Manuel Miranda, tells the story of the familia Madrigal. They live in a small Colombian village, and everyone in their family has magical powers, except for ”normal” Maribel. Our heroine must discover what makes her special: what is her magical skill?
It’s certainly not her mother’s gift, Maribel sighs. Her mamá can heal everyone in their village with homemade arepas, the daily bread of Colombia made from corn meal.
Magical arepas that heal? We love that! So much so that we asked two of our favorite Colombian cooks, Janeth Barrera, and her daughter Luna, 7—who were the first in line the day Encanto opened in theaters—to show us how they make arepas, Colombian-style, of course.
Janeth and Luna were up for the cooking challenge and went into their Chicago kitchen to make a batch of traditional cheese arepas. They used the same recipe and techniques Janeth learned from her mother when she was growing up in Medellín.
The tradición continues, and today Luna is the one learning to make the family arepa recipe.
”I like to make arepas because I love cooking,” says Luna. ”I love to eat arepas because they taste so good. I love arepas made with a lot of cheese.”
”We eat a lot of arepas in Colombia. The arepa accompanies all the meals,” Janeth says. But in their home in the States? Different story. Yes, there’s a Colombian neighborhood in Chicago where she can find fresh arepas for sale, but it’s an hour from where Janeth’s family lives.
So Janeth buys precooked cornmeal from her local Latino market to make this traditional treat several times a month. Thankfully ”they are very easy to make,” says Janeth. ”Luna, my husband and my son just love them.”
One of the best things about arepas? In addition to being caliente, crunchy, and deliciosas, “they are the perfect food any time of day,” says Janeth. “Whenever you are hungry, there is usually an arepa right there. You can eat them with everything. You can add tuna, sausage, ham or queso. Whatever you add, you’ll have a good dinner.”
Arepas are especially ideal for dinner back home, Janeth explains. ”In Colombia, we eat the main meal during the day, and then dinner at night is something very light, something fast. Whatever is leftover from the earlier comida, we might eat that with an arepita. A lot of people eat arepas with ahogao sauce on top and you have a meal.”
This makes us wonder: How does the Madrigal family eat their arepas in Encanto? We know they like them with queso, but what else?