Let philosophers debate which came first — the chicken or the egg — but artist Claudia True knows her own answer.

It was a chicken — a Kickin' Chicken, to be more specific — that fueled True's passion for her first calendar combining her love of art and cooking. (That painted poultry was in honor of a recipe for chicken enchiladas.)

The former Bakersfield artist is in town this week to present her 10th Cooking with Friends calendar, which she plans to celebrate with friends old and new at two signings.

Moving to Kansas City, Kansas, and not knowing anyone, True turned her boredom into something creative, fashioning a calendar featuring her art and recipes developed by her and Bakersfield graphic designer (and TBC Media employee) Holly Bikakis, who designs the calendar. 

Over the last decade, the calendar's reach has expanded, including dishes from chef friends and creative home cooks from Bakersfield, Kansas and points in between. True pairs her whimsical scenes of nature and home with tried-and-true dishes.

This year's contributions include recipes from Bakersfield friends including shrimp and pork dumplings from Cathy Bennett and olive cheese balls and dirty martinis from Ellen Roland.

Roland's olive cheese balls, a baked appetizer good for any party, will be served at the signings Thursday at Ice House Framing & Gallery and Friday at Beladagio. (You'll have to seek the martinis elsewhere; wine is the only adult beverage that will be available.)

In addition to calendars, True will also have items from Claudia’s Kitchen Collection, which includes potholders, aprons, kitchen magnets and bookmarks. All of the items feature the calendar cover image of martinis along with the word "Celebrate." Another treat is waiting at claudiatrue.com where a free mini dessert cookbook  — including recipes from each of the last 10 years — is available for download.

For those who just can't wait, here's the recipe for Roland's olive cheese balls, which she says she makes for the holidays and freezes ahead to enjoy later in the year.

As she wrote for the calendar: "They are too delicious to have only once each year!"  

Ellen's fantastic olive cheese balls with dirty martinis

Cheese balls 

2 cups grated sharp cheese

1⁄4 cup softened butter or margarine

1⁄2 cup sifted flour

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon paprika

48 olives or 80 small ones

Blend cheese with butter, stir in flour, salt and paprika. Mix well.

Wrap 1 teaspoon (use measuring teaspoon level) around olive.

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Make ahead: You can freeze the unbaked balls on a cookie sheet, wrapped in a plastic bag if you want to make them in advance.

Dirty martini

21⁄2 ounces gin

1⁄2 ounce dry vermouth

1⁄4 - 1⁄2 ounce olive juice, to taste

Olive for garnish

Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir well.

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with one or three olives. It may be an old bar tale, but it’s said that an even number of olives is bad luck.

— Recipes, featured in the 2018 Cooking with Friends calendar, are courtesy of Ellen Roland of Bakersfield

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.

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