You can think of all the classic options or simply pluck something off a gift registry, but here are a few ideas outside the box:
Silicone kitchenware: It's colorful, flexible and downright jolly to have around.
Silicone has been adding a playful, psychedelic quirkiness to kitchens nationwide for several years now.
From electric green and royal purple to baby doll pink and banana yellow, it plays out boldly against a stark, sophisticated stainless steel culinary back drop.
Silicone's universal appeal is its heat resistance, flexibility, ease of washing, and ability to go from oven or microwave to refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher and even the dinner table.
Just beware. Not all silicone products are created equal. Some manufacturers have cut costs by adding fillers to the product.
A simple test: Pinch and twist a flat surface on the item. If white shows through, the product contains filler because pure silicone does not change color when twisted. Fillers will compromise heat stability and performance.
The Lilypad silicone lid: Designed and manufactured by Charles Viancin, these bowl toppers are at the top of my silicone wish list.
From an environmental point of view, they're absolutely brilliant. Unlike the miles of plastic wrap you'll use in a lifetime the Lily Pad can be used over and over and over.
Plop the Lily Pad down on a container and an air-tight seal is created in an instant on any smooth-rimmed surface.
Lilypads are available in a variety of sizes to cover a number of tasks, from covering casseroles and pots (11 3/8 inches, $12.99), to keeping insects out of wine glasses and coffee mugs on the patio (4-inches, $7.99 for a set of 2).
View the entire line of Lilypads at www.charlesviancin.com.
Nonspill lid by Lekue: The Lekue nonspill lid has four vents on its surface designed to prevent boil-overs, such as those that occur when cooking pasta; the steam escapes and the boiling foam stays behind in the pot.
Also great for keeping grease and food splatters to a minimum during frying or microwave cooking.
Priced from $15 to $18, depending on size.
Lekue steam case with tray: Healthy cooking at its most colorful. From apple green to strawberry red or orange, this compact and flexible container allows healthy steam cooking in microwave or oven.
The removable interior tray guarantees the liquids accumulated during cooking will drain away from the food.
Priced at $29.95, it comes with a handy "Beginner's Survival Cookbook." View the entire line of lekue products at www.lekueusa.com.
Cuisinart's Elite food processor: Die cast and very sturdy. OK, with a suggested retail price of $319, this is either a group gift, or one to be given by very doting grandparents.
This baby comes with three stacking workbowls: 14-cup capacity, 11-cup capacity, and for mini jobs, a 4-1/2-cup capacity.
I have the silver finish and it looks stunning on the counter even when it's just sitting there. But when you put it to work, wowie.
Dial-A-Slice Quick Slice apple core and wedger by AMCOHouseworks: Most people are short on storage space, so it makes sense to pack two functions into one.
In this case, an apple corer and wedger that creates eight thick slices for snacking and, with the twist of the wrist, slices 16 thin slices for pies and cobblers.
This "twist and lock" action will cost you $19.95. Check it out online at www.amcohouseworks.com.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis, Ore., food writer, artist, and author. Readers can email firstname.lastname@example.org, or see her blog at www.janrd.com.
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