PEMBERVILLE – Cheese and crackers make a fine snack but add some vegetables and you’ve got a meal.

This isn’t a recipe for a charcuterie board, but a baked vegetable and cheese casserole.

Barb Emch takes California blend vegetables, Velveeta cheese and Ritz crackers to create a casserole that can be a side dish or the main meal.

“My kids love it,” she said, adding that she has made it for 20 years.

Emch got the recipe from a former co-worker at Uhlman’s in Fremont.

“I have used it and used it and used it. It was one of the best recipes that I have ever encountered.”

With the addition of butter, this four-item dish is easy on the pocketbook even though it may take some time to put together.

“It is simple but it’s time consuming because you have to chop up all the cheese and melt it with butter. Then you’ve got to do the same thing with your crackers,” Emch said. “As easy as it sounds, it is time consuming.”

She has gotten around that by having everything cut and crushed ahead of time. Putting it together only takes around 15 minutes, Emch said. It bakes in 30 minutes.

There is no need to thaw the vegetables, but she said she prefers to microwave them for about a minute. Cooks do not have to drain the liquid.

Emch said she hasn’t adjusted the original recipe at all, except to cut it half.

“It is just as good that way,” she said about downsizing it to an 8x8 dish.

Her dad did most of the cooking at home – she said her mother was not a very good cook – but he died when she was 9. So, what little bit of cooking she did before she got married was by chance.

Emch said she learned to cook from her first mother-in-law.

Gary, her second husband, loved to cook and was good at it, she said.

The couple moved to Pemberville in 1988 and lived in their house on Sugar Ridge Road for 31 years. When Gary passed away 12 years ago, she started thinking about downsizing. She now lives in a condo on the west side of town.

They had three daughters from their previous marriages and four grandchildren.

The casserole has become a Thanksgiving tradition.

“My daughter said don’t forget my casserole and deviled eggs.”

“I love it, it’s delicious,” said friend Dallas Coppeler about the casserole.

Emch said Coppeler never ate casseroles until he met her.

“She’s a very good cook,” he said.

Emch tried the smaller portion casserole the night before this interview, and Coppeler said he took the leftovers home and had the rest for lunch.

She said she takes it to a Quilting Eagles sewing bee twice a year. She has been a member for 10 years.

She said she tends to follow recipes as written but may adjust it in some way.

As for this casserole, “I’ve just made it the way it is from day one.”