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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!!
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Easy Gluten-Free Holiday Gift: Festive Layer-Bar Mix

Need a last-minute gift? This festive layer-bar is perfect with its chocolate crust and decadent layers. Assemble this easy mix in 3-cup glass jars and store in a dark, dry place until gift-giving time. You can also include a can of sweetened condensed milk, but for your dairy-intolerant recipients you might include a jar of your homemade sweetened condensed milk (see recipe below) or a can of Let’s Do…Organic brand sweetened condensed milk that is made from coconut milk.

Layer Bar Mix for Holiday Gift-Giving

Layer Bar Mix for Holiday Gift-Giving

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 (e.g., candy canes) but you can tailor this to suit the occasion. For a non-Christmas version, I would try butterscotch or peanut butter chips in place of the candy canes.

LAYER BAR MIX IN A JAR
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 or Pamela’s Honey Graham Crackers)

INGREDIENTS TO BE ADDED BY GIFT-RECIPIENT
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)

ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE GIFT-GIVER
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 crushed cracker 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 a festive bow over the paper-covered lid, and affix the recipe card to bow with more ribbon. Store in dark, dry place away from sunlight (so chips don’t melt).

BAKING INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE GIFT-RECIPIENT
Preheat oven to 350⁰F 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 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.

Dairy-Free Sweetened Condensed Milk
Reprinted with permission from 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)
Quite often, gluten-free folks are also dairy-sensitive and until recently there was no store-bought version of sweetened condensed milk that is dairy-free. Now, there is Let’s Do…Organic made with coconut milk. If you can’t find it, make this easy version at home. It 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.

Half of the Sweetened Condensed Milk recipe: 420 calories; 6g protein; 13g total fat; .5g fiber; 72g carbohydrates; 36mgs cholesterol; 197mgs sodium

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