$49.99; Zoku Single Pop Maker, $24.99. zokuhome.com
Serious about popsicles? If your family likes experimenting with recipes and healthy ingredients such as fresh fruit and yogurt, then the Zoku Quick Pop Maker is for you. The maker itself is a super-heavy mold unit to place in your freezer 24 hours before you want frozen treats. Whip up a concoction, fill the icy-cold molds, and expect frozen treats lickety-split. We tried a mix of chocolate pudding, low-fat milk and strawberries. When it came time to pour into the molds, however, we learned to be extra careful because the Quick Pop Maker really is quick. Filled molds start to freeze instantly. A pop is frozen solid in about five minutes; you can quickly make more while the mold is still cold enough. To get the pops out of their frozen “slots,” a special grip tool (included) screws into each pop’s reusable plastic stick. The “Lemonade” pops (fresh lemon juice, pure orange juice and vanilla extract) we tried next turned out so great, we felt like a professional!
A popsicle aficionado will want Zoku’s own “Quick Pops” recipe book ($16.95), which provides recipes and instructions for making too-pretty-sicles such as the “Caramelized Banana Coconut,” “Cookie Dough,” or the “Rhuberry” (fresh rhubarb pop with embedded strawberry skins). A “tools” kit ($19.99) helps you make extra-cool designs on your popsicles such as waves, or “marbling.”
Pros: You never knew you could make such gorgeous treats yourself! Maker is so sturdy, it seems it will last a lifetime.
Cons: Getting the process “down” takes a little trial and error, but learning how to use the tools will prove well worth it.
– Julie and Elly Bookman
Snow Cone Machine S700, $24.95 (machine only); Machine plus “Ultimate” snow cone package, $59.95. hawaiianshavedice.com
Kids will love this easy-to-use machine. This snow cone maker requires little assembly, and the 5- and 7-year-old boys who helped quickly pushed the adult out of the way because “we want to do it ourselves!”
After assembling the three main machine components, the boys dumped about two cups of ice into the bowl. We plugged it in, placed the lid over the ice, held it down and turned it slightly to the left to begin shaving the ice. The boys placed their cones under the spout and little chunks of snow quickly filled up their cones. Although the machine is available separately, we recommend choosing the “Ultimate” package because you’ll get a variety of flavor syrups, cups, straws and spouts – everything you need for a great day of snow cone making.
Pros: Quick and simple assembly, snow cones ready in mere minutes. The machine’s blade is well covered, so no worries that little fingers could get too close.
Cons: Ice not as “snowy” as you might get from an industrial machine, but it’s still a great cool treat for a hot day.
– Kate Wallace
Nostalgia Electrics Single Snow Cone Maker was a lot of fun and very easy to use. It comes with a plastic snow cone holder, which you place in the stand under the spout, then simply add about eight ice cubes, place and turn the lid, and the “snow” comes pouring out into the holder. These cones are made in less than a minute, but we were a little disappointed that they didn’t form into the nice rounded shape you associate with snow cones. The kids loved placing the snow cone holder in the stand and tossing the ice cubes into the machine. My daughter did not like the loud grinding noise the machine made, but she quickly recovered when she realized the treat she would get when it stopped! You can purchase flavor syrups separately, or just look in your fridge to find soda or juices to flavor your snow cone. We tried the root beer and cherry flavored syrups, but my two kids preferred snow cones made with our own fruit juice. The snow cone maker is a great alternative to the usual popsicles and ice cream we have at home in the summer. The bonus here: kids can help and get to use their creative “juices” experimenting with flavoring.
Pros: Easy to use, works quickly, easy to clean up.
Cons: Noisy “grating” sound.
– Kirsten Gromatzky
Model S-900A, $24.95 (machine only); machine plus “Ultimate” shaved ice package, $59.95. hawaiianshavedice.com
We were delighted by the results we had with this model, which shaves ice nice and fine, and much better than a standard blender does. Simple to operate, this machine also produces fast results; we had two finished snow cones in less than five minutes. A little bit of ice goes a long way; about 10 ice cubes yielded two full-size snow cones. We used syrups to flavor our ice, both strawberry and blue-raspberry – and then we mixed them both together (yum). It requires a little strength to hold down the lid during the ice shaving, so kids younger than 7 or 8 may not be able to do it alone. Still, this ice-shaving machine was a big enough hit for us to decide we have a great new alternative for snacking this summer.
Pros: Shaves ice like a professional snow cone maker; machine takes up little space; easy cleanup.
Cons: Supervision recommended for kids younger than 7. While spiral snow cone holders come with the “Ultimate” kit, we wish they were included with the basic model, because they seem essential for younger tots.
– Kaitlyn Morris
Focus Electrics, $34.99.
This ice shaver can make two snow cones at a time. The flavors available for purchase may remind you of favorite jellybeans such as wild cherry, green apple and root beer. Some flavors are even available in sugar-free versions.
After a few minutes of assembly, the machine was plugged in, filled with ice and cones were placed in the convenient holders. An added feature of this machine: built-in holders with syrup dispensers. The ice-grinding noise was not the most quiet of all that were tested, but the treat in the end made up for it. We especially liked the root beer-cherry combo flavor.
Pros: The colorful machine could be a great addition to a party. The syrup flavors are jellybean delicious!
Cons: The machine is very loud; assembly was more involved than other machines we tried.
– Kate Wallace