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 ...
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 www.charlesviancin.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.