Saturday night I invited friends over for dinner. It was a very casual dinner, but I wanted to have them over before everyone gets too hectic with the upcoming holidays. We munched on chips and salsa and just talked as our kiddos played outside.

imusa-arepa-2Then it was time for dinner – We don’t have a formal dining room, just one table in our kitchen, so the kiddos squished in with us at the same table. I made open face arepas and topped them with slow-cooked brisket, pico de gallo, avocado and tomatillo salsa, and queso fresco. I also made refried beans and red quinoa salad with roasted corn and avocado as side dishes.

The conversation first turned to the arepas – What is an arepa? Arepas look very similar to English muffins or gorditas and can be eaten warm with butter as a snack, or split open like a pita pocket and filled with cheese, meats, or other fillings. If you don’t have an arepa maker you can still make this recipe and cook them on a skillet with a little oil on medium heat until they are browned and sound hollow when thumped.

I gave my arepas a Mexican twist by using masa harina (corn flour) instead of the traditional Venezuelan and Colombian cornmeal. I also added some cream cheese and shredded cheese to the dough to give it a creamy and rich flavor. Everyone loved them!

After dinner the kids went off to play and us grownups stayed at the table and just talked. We talked about our homes, kiddos, and just life in general. It was a very nice casual night in.imusa-arepa-3

After everyone left my hubby and I were cleaning up the kitchen and I was starting to miss date nights and dinners out at fancy restaurants. I soon realized that’s just not my life anymore. I am married with children, and our friends are married with children. And after thinking about it, I’d much rather wear comfy clothes, drink a glass of wine at home, and have friends over for a quiet homemade dinner, even if our kids are joining us.

I have lots of memories of family dinners and that’s what we did – we all squished in at the same table and heard the grownups talk and once we were finished eating we would go off and play and the grownups stayed at the dinner table and talk the night away.

I can only hope that my children will remember the days that we had many home cooked meals and opened our home to friends and family rather that hiring a babysitter so that we can escape our real life.

 

Arepas

Ingredients:imusa-arepa-1

  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup softened cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup masa harina flour (recommend Maseca Corn Flour Masa)
  • ¼ cup Monterrey Jack cheese (shredded)

Directions:

  • Turn on the arepa maker.
  • Add milk, salt, and cream cheese to a mixing bowl and whisk until creamy.
  • Add sugar, flour, and cheese. Hand mix well until the flour absorbs most of the liquid.
  • Divide the dough into four balls. Using slightly moistened hands flatten the dough with your hands and soften the edges so you don’t have any cracks on the edges.
  • Spray the arepa maker lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Add the arepas to the hot arepa maker, close the cover, and allow the arepas to cook for about 15 minutes.
  • Using a wooden spoon, remove the arepas from the hot plate and while still warm, split the arepas in half.
  • Top each arepa with your choice of toppings.