You might recall a few weeks back I had the exceptional opportunity to visit and tour California Dairy Country. What might have started off as a friendly newborn calf frolicking-dairy dancing-cheese eating championship actually turned into a full-on throw down of ultimate culinary competitiveness.

In other words, once we made it back to San Fransisco things got real.

I’ve been asked several times over the years to audition for the likes of Chopped and Master Chef….I have politely declined with every poke. What is incredibly entertaining from the cheering section of my couch, would turn into a sweat-spree panic attack in kitchen stadium.

So when surprised by this team challenge (3 dishes, 16 portions, limited time and ingredients to complete), I entered thinking – no big deal, we’re all friends here, we’re all winners in the end…

Yeah right. More like: Where’s my cold compress and glass of pinot noir!

In shock and basically wearing shoes that doubled as ice skates, the buzzer went off and the situation turned cut throat.

All is fair in milkshakes and grilled cheese….

My team did exceptional under pressure.

In fact, I ended up feeling pretty at ease with the challenge at stake. Clear minded and focused, which is saying a lot considering the heckling panel of judges, the paparazzi-esque camera crew and a last minute curve ball secret ingredient…


We had 15 minutes before the challenge to devise a menu. We had only a few ingredients to choose from with no option of returning to the kitchen pantry. Now we had to figure mid-chaos how to integrate the new ingredient into our menu.

When in doubt – put it in your pesto.

And that, I did.

Recipe: Crema Pesto Brie Grilled Cheese


  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 TBS Pine Nuts
  • 1/4 Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup Mexican Crema (or Creme Freche)
  • 1/2 tomatoes
  • Brie cheese
  • Sourdough baguette


  1. In a small food processor combine the pesto ingredients: basil, pin nuts, parmesan, garlic & olive oil
  2. Once blended smooth, add crema and the juice of one lemon. Blend again.
  3. Spread mixture on the inside of sandwich, assemble with brie and chopped fresh tomato
  4. Place on a skillet until golden on each side
Quick notes
You can always use store bought pesto spread if you’re in a pinch (I won’t tell anyone).
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes
Number of servings: 8-1o {mini appetizer-sized} sandwiches

There you have it.

Thanks to this culinary speed bump (and 2 other delightfully accepted dairy-centric speed-plated dishes), success was ours.

Victorious! Winners of the CA Milk Cow-linary Challenge. BOOM!

Accidental mystery ingredient turned crowd pleasing bites of bliss. I can’t say this kind of luck happens all the time in my kitchen (let alone in a kitchen you are unfamiliar with while being stalked by a camera crew at a back-breaking speed), but sometimes divine intervention combined with sheer blind panic works in your favor and then is delivered in savory melted cheese form.


What kind of spontaneous Frankenstein combos have worked out in your favor!?