It's the time of year when gift-giving is on the rise — showers, weddings and graduations.

It's the time of year when gift-giving is on the rise — showers, weddings and graduations.

You already may have classic options in mind. And certainly, when it comes to wedding gifts, it's never unwise to simply pluck something off a gift registry.

But it's my job to take you outside the box for a few culinary twists you might not have thought about. Such as ...

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 backdrop.

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 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.

But when they're pure, they're very good. From oven mitts, cake pans and cookie sheets to garlic peelers, spatulas, muffin tins, steamers and hot pads, what's next?

The Lilypad Silicone Lid — Designed and manufactured by Charles Viancin, these bowl toppers are at the top of my silicone wish list. I just love having them around for lots of reasons.

From an environmental point of view, they're absolutely brilliant. Unlike the miles of plastic wrap you'll use in a lifetime to heat up a microwave meal or to cover the evening's salad leftovers, the Lily Pad can be used over and over and over. Plop the Lily Pad down on a container, and an airtight seal is created in an instant on any smooth-rimmed surface, including stainless-steel, glass, plastic and even melamine. They're a handy way to splatter-proof a bowl of food headed for the microwave and equally handy as a pan topper for anything simmering on the stovetop or in the oven (at temperatures up to 425 F).

Lilypads are available in a variety of sizes to cover a wide range of tasks, from covering casseroles and pots (113/8 inches; $12.99), to keeping insects out of wine glasses and coffee mugs on the patio (4 inches; $7.99 for a set of two). View the entire line of Lilypads and their counterparts, the Hibiscus Silicone Lid and Sunflower Silicone lids, at

Non-Spill Lid by Lekue — Unlike the Lilypad, which seals firmly to the surface of the pot or bowl, the Lekue non-spill lid has four vents on its surface designed to prevent boilovers, 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 on the stovetop or cooking in the microwave. 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 Beaver orange, this compact and flexible container allows healthful steam cooking in a microwave or oven. The removable interior tray guarantees that liquids accumulated during cooking will drain away from the food. Or leave the tray out, and poach the food in a flavorful broth. Its 22-ounce capacity cooks enough for one to three people. Priced at $29.95, it comes with a handy "Beginner's Survival Cookbook." View the entire line of lekue products at

Beyond Silicone

Cuisinart 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! But what a way to start a new life together. This baby comes with three stacking workbowls: 14-cup capacity, 11-cup capacity and, for mini jobs, 41/2-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 Adjustable Apple Corer and Slicer — 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 creates eight thick slices for snacking and, with a twist of the wrist, 16 thin slices for pies and cobblers. This "twist-and-lock" action will cost you $19.95. Check it out at Joseph Joseph Rocker Garlic Crusher — For those not confident enough to tame a clove of garlic with the flat side of a chef's knife, here's a fun and efficient option. Stylish and simple, this garlic press smashes and chops with downward pressure and a rocking motion that crushes cloves in short order as garlic flesh is forced through the razor-sharp mesh. The suggested retail price of $9.95 makes this an affordable addition to a gift basket; check it out at

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at