Carol's latest book, Gluten-Free Cooking for Two, is now available. Designed for small households, each perfectly-proportioned recipe serves two people. You will eliminate unwanted leftovers and reduce waste when you cook right-size meals with the 125 recipes in this book. Enjoy!! Celebrate with me!!! Gluten-Free Cooking for Two has won two awards: named one of ten "Best Gluten-Free Cooking Books in 2017" by and won a Silver Medal in the 2017 Living Now Book Awards in the "Natural, Nutrition, Organic, Vegetarian" category.
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Watch for Carol on "Creative Living with Sheryl Borden," a PBS-TV show airing on your local PBS station during 2017-2018.

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Gluten-Free Holiday Gift: Festive Layer-Bar Mix

Need a last-minute gift?  For kids of all ages? This festive layer-bar is perfect with its chocolate crust and decadent layers. Assemble this easy mix in glass jars and store in a dark, dry place until gift-giving time. Lucky recipients can bake the bars whenever they please.

Gluten-Free Layer-Bar Mix for Holiday Gift-Giving

Gluten-Free Layer-Bar Mix for Holiday Gift-Giving

You can also include a can of sweetened condensed milk, but for your dairy-intolerant recipients you might include a jar of your homemade dairy-free sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below).

And be sure to include the instructions—printed on a festive recipe card and tied to the jar—so the lucky recipient knows how to prepare this decadent treat. In fact, why not make one for yourself while you’re at it! My version is for Christmas (hence the candy canes) but you can also try butterscotch or peanut butter chips in place of the candy canes.


1/4 cup chopped candy canes

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

3/4 cup crushed GF cookies (such as Pamela’s Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Cookies)


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or buttery spread, melted

7 ounces (half of 14-ounce can) sweetened condensed milk (see homemade recipe below)


In 3-cup glass jar with screw-top lid (a 24-ounce Classico pasta sauce jar works perfectly), layer ingredients, starting with candy canes and then chocolate chips, coconut, pecans, and white chocolate chips. Spoon cookie crumbs into small plastic bag and place on top of layers. Screw on lid, cover the lid with 6-inch circle of colorful wrapping paper or cloth, tie on a festive bow, and affix the recipe card to bow with more ribbon. Store in dark, dry place away from sunlight (so chips don’t melt).


Preheat oven to 350F° and coat 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Remove cookie crumbs from jar and combine with melted butter. Press evenly into bottom of baking dish. Sprinkle remaining mix ingredients in jar over crumb mixture. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly on top. Bake until chips are melted, about 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting into 16 small bars.


Reprinted with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)

This recipe makes the equivalent of a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, about 1 ¼ cups.

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons sweet rice flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk of choice (I like So Delicious coconut milk or Living Harvest hemp milk)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter or buttery spread

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

[1] In a small, heavy saucepan whisk together the sugar, sweet rice flour, and salt until thoroughly blended. Whisk in the milk until smooth, then add the butter and heat the mixture on medium heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens slightly, about 3 to 4 minutes.

[2] Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Cool to room temperature to thicken a bit more. It is best used at room temperature; can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks but bring to room temperature again before using. Be sure to keep refrigerated until gift-giving time and tell the lucky recipient that it must be refrigerated.

2 comments to Gluten-Free Holiday Gift: Festive Layer-Bar Mix

  • Marla

    Carol, you are a genius!! I had someone tell me a great recipe, then say sweetened condensed milk. I tried their version, but got allergy symptoms. THANK YOU!!! This is a perfect gift for me! and for my newly diagnosed friend…. and my mom…. wow, lots of my peeps have become gluten-free since I have been.

  • Carol Fenster

    Marla: You are SO welcome. Enjoy the bars!!!

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