Spinach Artichoke Pasta

Spinach Artichoke Pasta

Ingredients

4 oz spaghetti 

Sea salt, to taste

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small shallot, sliced

3-4 large cloves of garlic, minced

¼ cup dry white wine

Juice from 1/2 a lemon, or more to taste

1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped finely

Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1-2 tbsp butter, to taste

2 cups baby spinach

6 oz jar of marinated artichoke hearts, drained

¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes 

1 tbsp toasted pine nuts

Parmesan cheese, for serving

Lemon wedges, for serving



Broccoli Casserole

Directions

Cook your pasta of choice in a large pot of well-salted boiling water to al dente, per package instructions; drain, reserving 1/3 cup of pasta cooking water. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce by heating the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. 

Add the white wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Add the lemon juice fresh parsley, crushed red pepper flakes, sea salt, and freshly cracked pepper, to taste, then add the butter and whisk until melted. Add the baby spinach, drained artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, cooked pasta, and toasted pine nuts; toss to coat evenly, adding some reserved pasta water as needed.

Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring often, for a few minutes to allow flavors to soak into the pasta. Taste and re-season if needed. Pour into a bowl and serve immediately with fresh lemon and parmesan cheese on the side. Enjoy!

 

Recipe courtesy of fortheloveofcooking.net

Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Garlic Butter Shrimp Scampi Pasta

Ingredients

1/2 lb. spaghetti

1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2″ pieces

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 1/2 Tbsp)

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or added to taste

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined (16-20 or 21-25 count)

1 1/4 tsp fine sea salt, divided, plus more for cooking pasta

1/4 tsp black pepper, ground, or to taste

1 Tbsp grated lemon zest

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, from 1 large or 2 small lemons

1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

freshly grated parmesan, to serve

Broccoli Casserole

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 Tbsp salt and 1 Tbsp olive oil, and cook pasta according to package instructions until al dente, or desired doneness (meanwhile, continue with recipe). Drain pasta, return to pot, and cover to keep warm. 

Place a large, deep pan over medium/high heat and add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp butter. Add asparagus, season lightly with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper and cook uncovered for 5 minutes or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan.

In the same hot skillet, add 2 Tbsp oil and 2 Tbsp butter. Once the butter is melted, add minced garlic and red pepper flakes if using, and sauté stirring frequently for 1 minute. Add shrimp in a single layer and season with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Sauté until shrimp are pink and not translucent (about 1 minute per side). Be careful not to overcook or the shrimp will be tough. Turn off the heat and add lemon zest, juice, and parsley, and stir to combine. Return the pasta and asparagus to the pan. Toss everything to combine and serve with freshly grated parmesan.

Recipe courtesy of natashaskitchen.com

7 Ways To Reduce Your Risk of Car Theft

7 Ways To Reduce Your Risk of Car Theft

Thieves are constantly devising new and sophisticated means of stealing cars. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), law enforcement received 932,329 stolen vehicle reports in 2021. This represents a 6% increase over 2020, says the NICB, and a 17% increase over 2019.

What steps can you take to avoid becoming part of these statistics? Here are seven simple actions that can save you the stress and expense of a car theft.

 

1. Keep your doors locked, even when driving

Locked doors are the easiest way to prevent car theft. Commit to keeping your doors locked everywhere, even places that appear relatively safe. For example, parking your car at home might feel safe. You might feel the same comfort at the neighborhood grocery store. However, it’s this comfort that thieves prey on to steal your car. They’re more likely to gain access to your car if you let down your guard. Locking your doors is a simple action that can deter thieves.

 

2. Keep your windows rolled up

When the weather is nice, it’s tempting to leave your car windows down. You may think just a crack is harmless. The reality is it takes only a crack for car thieves to gain access to your vehicle. They can use that crack to unlock and quickly steal your car. Keep your windows rolled up to deter thieves from spotting your car as an easy target.

 

3. Install an anti-theft system in your vehicle 

Anti-theft systems make stealing your car difficult. There are a number of options on the market:

  • Steering wheel locks attach to your steering wheel and immediately deter any thief who looks in your window.
  • Ignition cutoff systems, or “kill switches,” are another effective way to prevent thieves from starting your car if they get in.
  • Electronic tracking systems use GPS to locate stolen vehicles. Popular models like Lojack have successful recovery rates.

Additionally, if you own a new car, it may have a passive alarm that activates the moment the vehicle is turned off. Some systems even emit a signal that police can track if your car is stolen.

 

4. Select parking spots carefully

Be aware of your surroundings, especially in parking garages where thieves can work under the cover of darkness. A location where people can’t view or hear activity around your car, such as windows breaking, is a high-risk area for parking. Instead, select high-traffic areas. For example, park close to elevators and pathways where visibility would deter thieves from targeting your vehicle.

 

5. Etch the VIN in your car windows

Vehicle identification number (VIN) etching is the permanent engraving of your car’s VIN on its windshield and windows. It is difficult for a thief to sell a car with VIN-etched windows.

 

6. Never leave your car on and unattended

You may live in a neighborhood that feels safe. Kids play outside, you know the neighbors, and crime doesn’t happen frequently. But just because a neighborhood feels safe doesn’t mean thieves won’t target your vehicle. Avoid leaving keys in the ignition or the vehicle running, even if just for a moment. It takes only minutes to steal a car, and even less time when the vehicle is running.

 

7. Avoid keeping important papers or spare keys in your car

Do you keep your vehicle title inside your car? This makes black market sales easier. Also avoid hiding keys anywhere on the car. For instance, hikers might place a single key above the tire to lighten their load, especially while trail jogging. But thieves know about this practice, and it enables them to quickly steal vehicles.

No matter how old your car is, never rule out the possibility of it being stolen. In fact, older models can be easier than newer models to break into, and they are frequently stolen for parts.

Risks of Smart Devices in Your Home

Risks of Smart Devices in Your Home

Smart devices, from voice-activated assistants to smart bulbs and thermostats, are becoming more and more prevalent in American homes. While these devices offer convenience and more control over your home, they can leave you at risk for privacy and security issues.

Before you invest in the latest smart oven or dishwasher, learn how the connectivity of these devices may be harmful — and what you can do to reduce the risks.

Hackers in your home

Most smart devices can be remotely used. You can also set up automation, such as turning on lights at a certain time or changing the temperature of your home during specific hours. But it’s important to remember that everything connected to the internet has the potential to be hacked. If a hacker gets into your network, they can do anything from turning on your smart oven to unlocking your doors.

Maintain good network security by using a complex Wi-Fi password and keep it private. Also, review and carefully manage the permissions of your apps and devices on a regular basis. If remote control access is unnecessary or can be disconnected from the internet, you may choose to leave it disconnected.

Financial mishaps

Voice assistants allow you to make easy purchases from Amazon, the Google Play store and other retailers. But if your children figure this out or your device gets hacked, you may end up with more packages arriving at your door — and higher credit card bills.

To prevent others from ordering items through your assistant, you may want to disable voice purchases.
Instead, order through an app or website. You can also allow purchases through PIN activation only and
keep your PIN private.

Identity theft

Just as hackers can get control of devices, they can access any information associated with those devices. If you have credit card information or passwords saved with Google or Amazon accounts, they may be able to get that information by hacking your smart devices. Again, maintaining internet security is vital with smart devices.

Technology failure

If your Wi-Fi goes out, you still need to be able to control lights, door locks and other smart devices you use each day. Ensure all devices you purchase can be operated in other ways to avoid a complete shutdown.

How to stay safe with smart devices

You can minimize many security and privacy risks by staying on top of your smart devices. 

Remember to:
  • Always update your devices and apps
  • Choose the right apps and devices by following manufacturer recommendations
  • Customize and carefully control permission for all your devices
  • Purchase identity theft protection to guard against hackers
  • Use a complex password and two-factor authentication (such as passwords and PINs) whenever possible
  • Use remote features instead of voice activation to maintain control

 

More and more homes are incorporating smart devices. As technologies continue to improve and become integrated into homes, these simple steps can help lessen your home security vulnerability and concerns. You can still use smart devices in your home — as long as you stay smart, too.

How Climate Change May Affect Your Homeowners Insurance

How Climate Change May Affect Your Homeowners Insurance

Rising temperatures. Severe flooding. More intense hurricanes. Bitterly cold winters. Droughts and destructive wildfires. These kinds of incidents seem to be happening more frequently. 

Even most former climate change skeptics now acknowledge the world is becoming warmer. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2016 was the hottest year on record. And 2020 was the second-hottest. 

Sea levels are rising because of melting polar ice sheets, and the frequency and severity of destructive weather continue to increase. In the past 50 years, the number of natural disasters worldwide has risen more than 450%. And a report by the public policy consultancy Access Partnership estimates that the number of natural disasters will be up 37% by 2025. 

The rising sea level is affecting coastal areas all over the world. When the sea level rises, it’s not just those below the new high tide line who have to worry. Rising seas mean more potential flood events. Tidal flooding and storm surges become even more likely for low-lying coastal areas. 

Climate volatility and your home 

Many factors, including weather patterns where you live, can affect your homeowners insurance rates. 

The odds of your property sustaining damage are taken into account when your insurance premium is calculated. Climate change means those odds are getting worse. 

Higher premiums 

Because of increasingly severe weather events, insurance companies will inevitably incur more losses and pass down those costs to policyholders in the form of higher premiums. In the case of rising sea levels, homeowners in flood-prone areas face rising flood insurance premiums. 

And in wildfire-prone areas, it may be difficult to get insurance at all. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, some insurers are declining to renew homeowners policies. This follows years of record-setting wildfires in both size and cost, a trend scientists expect to continue as global warming accelerates. 

Insurance providers are watching carefully and adapting as needed. They are starting to: 

  • Forecast weather more accurately, analyzing risks down to specific regions 
  • Implement larger deductibles and fewer coverage options in high-risk areas 
  • Apply separate deductibles on some policies in areas prone to hurricanes, tornadoes, and wind and hail damage 

Financial incentives for climate resilience 

The insurance industry may someday offer incentives to homeowners who take measures to make their properties more climate resilient. These may include lower deductibles and more favorable premiums. For example, green homes could potentially receive discounted rates. 

The concept is similar to safe drivers receiving discounts because they are less likely to get into accidents that generate insurance claims. 

Customers who generate solar, wind power or geothermal energy can already reap the benefits of discounted premiums offered by some insurers. 

Along similar lines, some insurance companies are providing climate-related discounts in Firewise USA communities where residents are proactive in preventing wildfires. Every participating homeowner learns how to avoid fire damage and implements fire prevention methods, such as clearing property of brush, vegetation and other items that spread fire. 

How to prepare your home for extreme weather 

The best thing you can do to protect yourself from extreme weather losses and rising homeowners insurance costs is to avoid purchasing any of the following: 

  • Coastal property 
  • Property that lies in a flood zone 
  • Property in an area with frequent tornadoes, hailstorms or windstorms 
  • Property in a wildfire-prone region 

Of course, the home of your dreams (perhaps the one you already live in) may well fall into one of these categories. If your home is susceptible to weather-related damage, consider renovations that make it sturdier and more resilient. 

Here are some other things to keep in mind: 

  • If you live in a high-risk flood zone, you may want to opt for excess flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program allows you to get up to $250,000 in coverage for your home and $100,000 for your personal property. 
  • Does your policy cover “actual cash value” or “replacement cost” coverage? Actual cash value accounts for depreciation when it reimburses you for losses. But replacement value will cover the full cost of replacing damaged items, although it costs about 10% more on average. 
  • What are the caps and limitations on your coverage? The age of your roof may affect how much you’ll get toward replacing it, or your screened-in patio may not be covered. 

Keep in mind earthquake and flood insurance are not normally included in standard homeowners policies. 

If you haven’t completed a home inventory yet, do it now — before a catastrophic weather event. Having a list (and video or photo proof) of the things you own will help you get reimbursed if your house is damaged.

Review your coverage needs 

You may not be able to completely avoid weather damage related to a changing climate. But taking precautions and knowing exactly how you’re covered can help if disaster strikes. Contact your insurance professional to talk about your unique insurance needs.

Some Americans Put Their Home Insurance Policies at Risk By Delaying Repairs, Survey Finds

Inflation and rising prices are causing delays on maintenance tasks, possibly affecting home insurance coverage.

While many Americans are now up to date on their routine home maintenance work, many delayed making repairs and even necessary renovations in the last year to save money, a decision that puts their homeowners policies at risk, according to a recent survey by Nationwide.

The survey of 1,000 homeowners and 400 independent insurance agents conducted from May 15 to June 2, revealed that about 85% of homeowners say they are up-to-date on routine maintenance repairs and about 70% say they regularly perform routine tasks to prevent issues from occurring.

However, many of them (44%) said that they delayed routine maintenance tasks in the last year, with about a third postponing even necessary renovations and repairs.

 

Cost concerns behind delays

Cost was the primary reason reported for delays. Some 78% of those surveyed said that inflation and rising prices prevented them from starting or completing tasks. About 46% reported that they had other financial priorities such as paying off debt or saving for other expenses. Other top reasons cited included a lack of time or energy, difficulty finding reliable contractors as well as waiting for better weather conditions.

 

The age of the homeowner was also a factor when it came to postponing work, the study showed. Baby Boomers were the least likely to delay home maintenance needs, while those more likely were Gen Xers and Millennials.

 

About 26% of homeowners said they were unaware that delaying necessary home maintenance tasks could affect their homeowners policy, the survey showed.

“As a homeowner, it’s important to protect your property from further damage when there is a known issue,” Beth Riczko, Nationwide’s president of P&C Personal Lines, said in a statement commenting on the survey.

“When a claim is filed, there are many factors reviewed during the investigation that may impact whether the claim is covered, including if the insured followed policy conditions,” she said. “For example, when shingles are damaged on a roof and aren’t repaired causing interior damage, there could be coverage impacts.” 

Some 71% of insurance agents surveyed reported that customers are reducing their coverage to save money. Agents said the most common claims stem from weather-related and fire-related damage.

More than 8 in 10 homeowners (87%) said they believe their homes are insured at the right value, but many remain concerned that their policy might not cover certain types of damage or incident, or that they may not have enough coverage in case of a major loss or catastrophe, the survey showed.

As Kiplinger previously reported, it pays to make sure your home – as well as your vehicle – insurance coverage is up to date. Homeowners insurance will pay to repair or rebuild homes after damage from a covered cause, such as fire, wind or vandalism. However, the policy sets a limit on how much it will pay, as reported.

 

Credit: Kiplinger 

Hammer Out Insurance Before Renovating Your Home

A home renovation can add value to your property and make it more livable. But before you hire a contractor, make sure you have the right insurance coverage in place. You may need to increase your homeowners insurance or purchase a builders risk policy. 

Whether you’re completely remodeling your house or simply updating a bathroom, you’ll want to carefully weigh your options and costs. You also need to understand the insurance implications both during and after the project.

As you begin to talk to contractors, remember to protect your property and all that you’ve invested in your home. That includes thoroughly vetting the companies you hire and making sure your insurance policies and theirs are in order.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Research the companies to see if they have had claims for faulty workmanship or other damages.
  • Ask your insurance agent what kind of insurance you and your contractors should have and how much.
  • Ask your contractors for proof of insurance, often called an insurance certificate. It should list their insurance company, their coverages and how much insurance they carry. You want to be sure there’s enough liability insurance to cover a major disaster.
  • Clean up your home and yard so you are not found at fault for a serious injury or property damage.

Choose contractors who are licensed and insured

Home renovation is stressful enough without having to worry about a potential legal dispute or liability claim. That’s why you should hire only reputable contractors who are licensed and insured.

If a contractor isn’t fully insured, you could be on the hook if a worker is hurt on the job or causes damage to someone’s property. Worst case, you might be sued for injuries or damages. If you’re using an architect or licensed engineer, they should also carry professional liability insurance to cover errors and omissions in their design work.

Insurance you need to protect your home

Your homeowners policy affords some liability protection when you have contractors in your home, but you may need additional insurance.

Here are some other forms of insurance you may need, depending on the extent of your renovation:

  • Builders risk insurance covers a project while it’s under construction. It insures materials, supplies and equipment stored on the job site, and covers perils such as fires, lightning, wind damage, explosions, burst pipes, vandalism and theft. There are builders risk policies written specifically to cover renovations.
  • Vacant building insurance protects against losses from damage to your property that occur while your home is unoccupied. Most homeowners policies won’t cover buildings that are vacant for more than 30 or 60 days.
  • Flood insurance pays for water damage from flooding not covered by your homeowners policy. You must purchase it separately, usually through the National Flood Insurance Program. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you should definitely consider it, especially if you’re remodeling your basement or adding on to your house.
  • Water backup insurance covers damages from a sewer line, drain or sump discharging water into your house.

Renovating your home can improve your lifestyle. But before you start, make sure you’ve protected your investment.

Skillet Spinach Pie

Skillet Spinach Pie

Ingredients

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups (8 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
1-1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons dill weed
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup julienned soft sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), optional
1/3 cup canola oil
12 sheets phyllo dough (14×9-inch size)

Broccoli Casserole

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, combine eggs, spinach, cheeses, walnuts, seasonings and, if desired, tomatoes; set aside. Brush a 10-in. cast-iron or other ovenproof skillet with some of the oil; set aside.
  2. Unroll phyllo dough. Place 1 sheet phyllo dough on a work surface; brush with oil. (Keep remaining phyllo covered with a damp towel to prevent it from drying out.) Place in prepared skillet, letting edges of phyllo hang over side. Repeat with an additional 5 sheets phyllo, again brushing with oil and rotating sheets to cover the skillet.
  3. Spread spinach mixture over phyllo in skillet. Top with an additional 6 sheets of phyllo, again brushing with oil and rotating sheets. Fold ends of phyllo up over top of pie; brush with oil.
  4. Using a sharp knife, cut into 8 wedges. Bake on a lower oven rack until top is golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate leftovers.

Nutrition Facts

1 piece: 334 calories, 23g fat (7g saturated fat), 75mg cholesterol, 649mg sodium, 17g carbohydrate (2g sugars, 5g fiber), 18g protein.

Effective Strategies for Managing Ice Dams

Ice dams, the thick accumulations of ice that form at the edges of roofs, are a notable winter concern for both commercial and residential properties. As insurance agents, gaining a comprehensive understanding of ice dams is key in offering well-informed advice and coverage to your clients.

Understanding the Causes of Ice Dams

The formation of ice dams is a result of the interaction between heat escaping from inside a building and the cold exterior temperatures. This warm air rises to the attic, warming the roof deck and causing the snow on its surface to melt. As the melted water flows down towards the colder eaves, it refreezes, forming an ice dam that traps water behind it. This trapped water can eventually leak into the attic and interior of the building, causing costly damage.

Debunking Common Myths About Ice Dams

Myth 1: Ice Dams Only Form on Roofs with Poor Insulation

Reality: While poor insulation can contribute, ice dams may form on any roof, regardless of insulation quality. The key factor is uneven roof temperatures, which can be influenced by various factors, including the architecture of the building and external weather conditions.

Myth 2: Gutters Cause Ice Dams

Reality: Gutters do not cause ice dams. Ice dams form when snow melts on a warm roof and refreezes at the colder roof edge. However, clogged gutters can exacerbate the problem by trapping melting snow and water, providing a foundation for ice to build upon.

Myth 3: Icicles Indicate Ice Dams

Reality: While icicles may be a symptom of ice dams, they are not a definitive indicator. Icicles can form independently of ice dams in many cases. However, large icicles hanging over gutters can sometimes be a sign of underlying ice dams.

Myth 4: Chipping Away Ice Dams is a Safe Solution

Reality: Attempting to physically remove ice dams can be hazardous and may cause damage to the roof. Instead, recommending the use of calcium chloride ice melt or professional removal services is safer and more effective.

Myth 5: Ice Dams are Only a Cold Climate Problem

Reality: While more common in colder climates, ice dams can occur in any region experiencing snowfall and fluctuating temperatures. Properties in regions with less frequent snowfall may be more at risk due to a lack of preparedness and awareness.

Myth 6: A New Roof Will Prevent Ice Dams

Reality: Even new roofs can succumb to ice dams if the underlying causes are not addressed. Proper attic insulation and ventilation are helping in discouraging ice dams, not just the age or condition of the roof.

Understanding these misconceptions is the first step in effective ice dam management.

Proactive Measures to Prevent Ice Dams

  1. Enhance Insulation and Ventilation

Improving attic insulation and ventilation prevents the uneven melting and refreezing of snow on the roof, which is a critical step in winter home safety. Ensure that the attic floor is air-sealed to prevent heat from escaping and that adequate insulation maintains a consistent roof temperature.

  1. Regular Roof Maintenance and Inspection

Regularly inspecting and maintaining the roof can identify and rectify potential issues that might exacerbate ice dam formation. This includes clearing debris from gutters and downspouts and ensuring the roof is in good repair before winter.

  1. Utilize Roofing Techniques and Materials

Consider installing snow and ice shields on the roof, especially in areas prone to heavy snowfall. These materials provide an additional layer of protection against water damage.