February half-term has been hell for many families. Stay-at-home-parents have been going doolally trying to keep their kids entertained during an unwelcome holiday that seemed to have arrived way too soon after Christmas.
No money, no inspiration, no enthusiasm. It's just been a week of grin and bear it. That's what I started to experience at the screeching-kid horror of a soft play centre that would match a rock concert for decibel levels.
Normally, I would avoid such a place like the plague. Playdates are what my three kids, aged 11, eight and five, are into now, but this half-term all their friends seem to be away.
Last weekend, I tried to muster up some companionship for my three charges so that I could earn a crust in the back bedroom. But every playdate invitation I sent was met with a 'Would love to, but we're ski-ing' rebuke.
Has everyone suddenly won the lottery but not told me about it? I can just about to afford a plastic sledge for the one day a year it snowed.
Anyway, devoid of the company and distractions of Other People's Children, there was nothing else for it: play centre hell. Never again. There had to be a third way.
So rather than brave the cold to go to the park or another eardrum-shattering trip to anywhere that screaming half-terms congregate, I decided to devote this week to the Housedad Cookery Club aka Teaching My Kids to Cook.
As I wrote last week, there is a Government initiative to introduce cookery lessons to all schools for 7-14-year-olds by the year 2014.
It's something I heartily believe in, so this week I got my brood practising what I've been preaching.
After prising them away from their Wii and computer games, they took to the task like ducks to orange sauce, starting off simply with toast, then moving up to omelettes, followed by pancakes, and as the week progress, they graduated through mini-burgers, chicken pitta pockets, sausage hotpot and spag bol.
By Thursday, a mini-revolt was starting to take shape.
"Does everything have to be savoury?" said the 11-year-old.
"Yes, what about something nice?" asked the eight-year-old. Which was fair enough.
So this is the recipe we came up with – a No-Cook Fridge Cake that was so delicious my wife and I ate most of it!
Makes approx. 15 squares
300g digestive biscuits
300g mix of dark and milk chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tbsp golden syrup
50g almonds, chopped
1. Put the biscuits in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin. Make sure you have lots of chunks, not just crumbs.
2. Heat a few centimetres of water in a large saucepan and place a large bowl over it. Add the butter, chocolate and syrup and stir constantly until it all melts and becomes very smooth and shiny.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the biscuits, nuts and raisins. Make sure all the ingredients are mixed really well.
4. Line a shallow baking dish with baking parchment or tin foil and pour the mixture in.
5. Press down with a potato masher then put in the fridge to harden. Cut into 15 squares. You can freeze some in an airtight container if you like, but eat within a few months.
Sanity restored. Bring on Back-To-School!
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