Do you struggle to find great gifts?

[tabs slidertype=”images” auto=”yes” autospeed=”6000″]
[imagetab width=”640″ height=”426″] [/imagetab]
[imagetab width=”640″ height=”426″] [/imagetab]
[imagetab width=”640″ height=”426″] [/imagetab]

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”] W[/dropcap]ell if you do struggle to find great gifts, welcome to the club! Like my grandmother, I’ve never been very good at coming up with thoughtful gift ideas.

But over the years I’ve developed a fail-safe system for choosing gifts for my family and friends. And it really couldn’t be easier.

I do one of two things…

1. I give experiences.
Tickets to events are a favourite but gift vouchers for restaurants or hotels are also great fun. For a more ‘hands on’ gift I love to host a dinner party for the gift recipient(s). They just choose the guests and the time and I take care of everything else.


2. I give the gift of something home made.
Home made gifts are a brilliant way to show you care by giving your loved ones something that you took the time to make just for them. We all know that time is a super valuable resource these days.

As I’ve discovered, home made gifts have many benefits. They tend to be personal and thoughtful. They’re also usually inexpensive. And best of all they are super fun to make.

Here are 3 of my favourite home made gifts

1. BBQ sauce
I’ve been making this super easy sauce for years now and always have a stash in my pantry. Brilliant with sausages, burgers, barbequed meats or anywhere you’d normally use ketchup.

2. Chilli Oil
It may sound ‘fancy’ but basically all you need to do is cook some chillies in oil with a little garlic then pop it in a pretty bottle. Great to drizzle anywhere you need a little rounded chilli warmth. Reminds me I need to make some more soon.

3. BBQ Coffee Rub (recipe below)
A recent addition to my gift giving repertoire, this super simple rub easily gets the most compliments.

Looking for more easy gift ideas?

made with love logo

Well you’re in luck! Doors are now open to the Stonesoup Virtual Cookery School for our ‘Made With Love’ class.

In ‘Made With Love’ I’ll show you…
[custom_list type=”check”]

  • How to save money this Christmas by making delicious edible gifts.
  • Over 23 delicious gift ideas.
  • 6 tips for stylish gift wrapping without spending a fortune.
  • How to make edible decorations for your tree and home.
  • PLUS! Each recipe comes with printable recipe cards with suggestions for how to use each gift.


Hurry! DOORS CLOSE 1st Dec 2012.
For more details go to:

BBQ coffee rub

Coffee BBQ rub

Takes about 5 minutes.

I first came across the idea of coffee in a rub at the farmers markets in San Francisco. I wasn’t sure how it would taste, but was very pleasantly surprised. Actually if the truth be told, my Irishman and I became quite addicted to our steaks with coffee rub.

The only problem was that I couldn’t just flit back to the markets on the other side of the world to pick up another jar. So I had to come up with my own recipe.

Even if you aren’t a big coffee fan, it’s worth giving this a try as the flavour is more peppery and smoky BBQ rather than coffee. I’ve included quantities for both a small test batch and a larger ‘gift giving’ batch.

enough for 4 steaks (or 5 cups)
3 tablespoons ground black pepper (240g / 8.5oz)
2 tablespoons ground coffee (140g / 5oz)
2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes (40g / 1.5oz)
2 teaspoons fine salt (100g / 3.5oz)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (10g / 0.5oz)

1. Combine ground peppercorns, coffee, chilli flakes, salt and cumin.

2. Store in an airtight container.

Sprinkle the coffee rub over steaks, pork chops or chicken breasts to give an even coating. Grill, pan fry or barbeque as per normal.

If giving as a gift, it’s a good idea to include an ingredients list so your gift recipient will know exactly what they’ve got.

Black pepper, ground coffee, salt, chilli, cumin.

can’t find chilli flakes? – replace with ground chilli powder (if using the teaspoon measurement, decrease the quantity by half).

mild rub – either halve the chilli or just skip it all together.

instant coffee – I haven’t tried it, but I imagine instant coffee would work as well, although it will have a different texture.

video version of the recipe.

With love,
Jules x


  • I personally like your second idea. Somewhere along the line, I read — and I believe — that store-bought gifts are “gifts of apology.” Ever since, I’ve preferred “giving of myself” as opposed to giving something that will be closeted and forgotten about in short order. Mrs. tVM and I harvest prickly pear in the Sonoran Desert and prickly pear juice is one of our frequent gifts. Another giving opportunity I have become fond of is donating through Heifer International. Through Heifer, I can donate meaningful gifts to families in need. I donate the gifts — a flock of geese, for example — in ‘honor’ of my friend’s or relative’s ‘event.’ I find it far more satisfying on both ends to donate a gaggle of geese to a Gambian family in honor of my granddaughter’s birthday than to give her a Barbie doll. As Francis of Assisi prayed, “It is in giving that we receive.”

  • I, like tvm, love your second idea, and for the first time EVER i made something for my loved ones. It turned out to be your croissant surprise birthday cake as a ‘gift’ for my 19 year old nieces birthday.

    As a very almost nearly 40 single gal with a mortgage, i often have to apologise to family and friends about not being able to afford presents. When i do have some spare cash, it often finds itself in a token funny card and that’s it, not really thoughtful, but it became my comfort zone.

    the cake was a smashing success. unfortunately i was a tad late for the celebrations, because my oven needed almost double the amount of cooking time suggested, and i brought the cake (still in its tin, still steaming!) to my sisters house.

    We (or i should say I) are not a chocolate household, so i improvised and used jam instead. well, it was a SMASHING success. so much so, that the store bought birthday cake is still there, and yet the croissant cake disappeared the next morning (and i was told it tasted EVEN BETTER than on the actual night!)
    it was so lovely to be able to make a present & it felt so rewarding to have created something that was enjoyed by all.

    Jules, i have made at least 6 of your recipes in the past month, and being single and cooking for one, it has been the first time EVER that i am saving money and making the most tastiest dishes ever! my shopping bill is at an all time low and i now have a secret crush on smoked paprika. love what you are doing, keep doing it, i am now planning on making a lovely vegan dish for my other niece for xmas!

  • I’m doin’ the coffee rub for the kids teachers end of year gift! Smashed on this one Clance!

  • I never would have thought of using coffee as part of a rub, but it makes sense now that I think of it. I bet it tastes great.

  • I really love this idea of making a rub to give for the holidays! I know a lot of men (and women!) that would love something like this. I always struggle w/ gifts because I want them to be meaningful. What better way than to give something that I make myself. Great idea!

  • Ten years ago, I ate two steaks each week. In recent years, however, I’ve significantly reduced my meat intake. Frankly, I haven’t had a steak in two months. After I saw your Coffee BBQ rub, I decided it was time for a steak. I made the rub and had the steak last night. GLORIOUS! Your coffee rub is extraordinary. Right or wrong, I may get back into the habit of having a steak once a month just so I can savor the rub. Great recipe, great gift idea.

  • I was trying to come up with something to give my parents apart from the already bought gift (same thing for both, and they know what it is). Something inexpensive but still nice and preferably personal. Stumbled upon your recipe for the BBQ coffee rub and thought “that is absolutely perfect for dad!”. He loves cooking steak, strong coffee and different spices and spice mixes. The only thing I didn’t already have in my cupboards was cumin (still building that spice collection since moving out). Perfect!

  • This is the first time I’ve ever come across your site, but I already love it! fewer ingredients is key to me, on top of which I love that you incorporate videos! Thanks for the tips! :)

Comments are closed.