Krups coffee grinder Even if you don't care much about coffee, you'll find your life is much improved if you do three things: buy fresh whole bean coffee, keep it stored in an airtight container at room temperature for no more than two weeks, and grind it fresh every morning. The blade coffee grinders don't give quite as consistent a grind as burr grinders, and the flavor isn't quite as good. But they are many times more expensive. The difference between fresh ground coffee and horrible pre-ground stuff is much larger than the difference between burr-ground and blade-ground fresh coffee. It sounds tedious, but it takes us much more time in the morning to fill the coffee maker with water than it does to grind the coffee.
Rotato My sister bought me this last Christmas as a sort-of-joke, sort-of-gift, and surprisingly, I'm actually fond of it. It's a specialty appliance, and definitely not for everyone. But it really does do a good job of peeling potatoes and apples, if you do a lot of that. The only downside is that it does chew through blades pretty rapidly; spares cost $1-2 apiece.
Silicone oven mitts Not sexy. But sooooooo useful. They protect your hands better than anything else, though you pay a price in fine motor manipulation. You can stick your hands into boiling water wearing these, as long as the water doesn't come up over the opening of the glove. The longer the better, for that reason.
Thoughtful Presents: $25 to $50
Bodum teapot I love loose leaf tea, which has a better flavor than tea bags (tea bags grind the tea finer, which means it goes stale faster). But I hate fussing with tea balls, or the dregs at the bottom of my pot. This teapot gets top marks for style, ease of use, dishwasher safe-ness, and my favorite feature--a plastic girdle that serves as a built-in trivet. The interior compartment keeps leaves out of your teacup while allowing in the full flavor, and can be used with teabags. If it's for a single person, you might want to consider the smaller model.
Knife block I am very seriously not a fan of those all-in-one knife sets that come with a knife block. For one thing, no one is an all-in-one cook--I have friends who can't live without a cleaver, and are mystified by my attachment to good kitchen shears. For another, the knives usually aren't very good, which means they don't have a good weight, the handles aren't affixed too solidly, and they will have trouble holding an edge. A nice big knife block gives your budding chef space to build a knife set that works for them.
Pepper mill It has come to my attention that many of you are still using pre-ground pepper, and really, my friends, that has to stop. You might as well take what's left over in the garden ashtrays after a party and sprinkle it over your eggs--at least it would save you some money, and wake you up a bit. Almost all spices are best fresh ground, because the essential oils that give them their flavor dissipate very quickly--but pepper suffers particularly badly, turning bitter and lifeless. In my opinion, Peugeot makes the best mills for consistency, longevity, and adjustibility. The wood mills are the French classic, but they also have lovely modern ones, and electric ones, which seem like overkill unless you're dealing with some pretty serious arthritis.