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Farmer’s Casserole

Sometimes it’s difficult to imagine that SHARON FURCHES has ever had time to cook. Mother to two children, grandmother to three, she and her husband, Tripp, farm 5,000 western Kentucky acres planted in wheat, corn, and soybeans. They manage to store 550,000 bushels of grain for themselves and neighbors, and Sharon works full time in the farm office, “keeping crop records, paying bills, scheduling appointments with the many sales reps that come by, and maintaining our customer and landlord relationship,” she says.

But she doesn’t stop there. She is the Calloway County Farm Bureau president and district representative on the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Women’s Leadership & Education Committee. Furches works with the commissioner of agriculture as part of the Kentucky Board of Agriculture, which oversees the welfare of Kentucky’s livestock industries, and she serves on numerous other committees and boards.

She’s been part of Kentucky Women in Agriculture since its inception in 1999, serving five years as secretary and in her fourth year as president. Furches says members of the group share two common denominators: “being women and loving agriculture. Beyond that, we represent just about every type of farming or agribusiness across the state.”

She also cooks. Now with only two people at home, she says her meals are pretty simple, but she still “loves to cook for family and holidays.” The sausage and rice casserole, a recipe Furches learned from her little sister, is a family favorite. “We have it for breakfast on its own or as a dinner meal with other side dishes,” she says.

It’s typically made with sausage that neighbors bring her. “There are several local farmers who give us beef, deer, sausage, even fish when they are processing their meat,” she says. “It’s one of the best things about living in a rural agricultural community.”

Aunt Gigi’s Sausage & Rice Casserole

2 lb sausage
4 C crisped rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies)
2 C cooked rice
16 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1⁄4 C milk or half-and-half
2 cans condensed cream of celery soup

Heat oven to 375°. Brown sausage and drain well. Put 2 cups of cereal in a 4-quart casserole. Top with half the sausage, half the rice, and half the cheese, and then sprinkle with 1 cup of cereal. Repeat layers. Beat eggs, milk, and soup to combine evenly. Pour mixture over the layers and bake for 45 minutes. Serves 12.

Chocolate pudding cake
Recipe by Sarah Fritschner

1 C all-purpose flour
2⁄3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1⁄2 tsp baking powder
3⁄4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 C granulated sugar
3⁄4 C whole milk
1⁄4 C butter, melted
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3⁄4 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1⁄2 C boiling water

Heat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine flour, 1/3 cup cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs with granulated sugar, milk, butter, and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Stir batter until just combined. Spread batter evenly into an 8-cup, shallow baking dish. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat remaining 1/3 cup cocoa powder, brown sugar, and boiling water. Pour liquid evenly over batter; do not stir or mix. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until the sides begin to pull away a little from the pan. The middle will still be soupy—that’s the sauce. Cool 10 minutes, and then scoop out part of the cake-like edge and the saucy middle onto plates. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or unsweetened whipped cream. Serves 8.

SARAH FRITSCHNER coordinates Louisville Farm to Table, a program bringing more Kentucky-grown food into local homes, restaurants, and institutions.

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