Chefs in Training: 4 Tips For Cooking With Kids

It goes without saying: kids love food. Playing with it, throwing it, and (if you’re lucky) even eating it. And they’re just as enamored with the kitchen, watching as grown-ups mix, pour, and create all kinds of fascinating dishes. While it might seem a little scary to get kids involved in the process, including them in your culinary pursuits can boost their confidence, creativity, and problem-solving skills. It’s also a great way to squeeze some family time into your already packed schedule. Here are 4 ways to make cooking fun for everyone involved.

1. Be safe and prepared

Safety always first when it comes to working with budding chefs, so it’s a good idea to set up a few ground rules about hand washingbefore and after handling food — especially if raw meats will enter the equation. This is also a good time to point out kitchen tools that require more caution, like knives, the oven, and the stove. And if you can find a recipe that doesn’t involve any knife work, even better.

2. Keep it simple

Unless your child happens to be the winner of the latest reality cooking show, this is definitely not the time to bust out the blow torch or flambé. Keeping your first recipes easy and straightforward sets realistic, attainable goals, preventing your kids from getting frustrated or overwhelmed.

Some easy recipes can also involve multiple children. A pizza or taco assembly lineis a good way to divvy up tasks and keep everyone included. This system also works for decorating cookies and cupcakes. And assigning separate tasks allows kids with different skill levels to be involved. You can even have all the kids take turns doing the same task.

3. Stay age appropriate

No 2 kids will develop at the exact same rate, so rely on a little bit of intuition. Here are some general guidelines for what tasks will best suit your kids.

Preschoolers

For kids on the younger end of the spectrum, a good place to start might be old-fashioned observation. Even simply letting them hold a safe kitchen tool — like a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or anything else that’s child-safe — will get them acquainted with an implement they’ve never used before. This is also a good opportunity to explain what it does and how to use it. Safe tasks for younger kids include stirring or mixing, kneading, sprinkling, and pouring.

Kindergarten to third graders

Since their motor skills are likely to be more developed, they’ll do well with tasks like cracking eggs or using rolling pins, electric mixers, cheese graters, and frosting bags. They might even be able to handle small knives, such as paring knives (with adult supervision, of course).

Older children

This is when you can introduce slightly more advanced kitchen tools such as potato peelers, cutting knives, and even the stove. Prep work, like cutting veggies or meats, would be suitable for kids this age. A child between 9 and 12 could even take on an entire meal that includes multiple tools and stages of preparation.

4. Have patience

Next to safety, patience is the most important part of the equation. Remember, when working with novice chefs, things may take a bit longer than expected, so it’s important to set aside extra time. Be prepared to explain things a few times. And since mistakes (and messes!) are bound to happen, it’s also a good idea to have some extra ingredients around for backup. Most importantly, keep the mood light,even if things don’t go perfectly. It’s all about the journey.

If you’re a chef in training yourself, then you might want to check out even more kitchen tips, like how to keep pests out, and how to make the most of a small space. And just when you thought the fun was coming to an end, the Scott Brothers have a cool hack to spice things up in your small kitchen.

4 Mistakes That Might Be Costing You Money on Car Insurance

Car insurance can be fairly simple to navigate if you have a perfect driving record, have never filed a claim, and are the only driver on your policy. But let’s be honest: the possibility of falling into all 3 of those categories is slim, which may explain why many of us don’t shop around for auto insurance as often as we probably should.

Even if you’ve accumulated points on your driving record, there are still plenty of money-saving tips that could help you lower your premium. Before you start comparing rates online, check out the following tips to see if you could avoid paying unnecessary fees and qualify for any discounts.

4 ways to save money on car insurance

1. Avoid a lapse in coverage

Unlike health insurance, for example, auto insurance can be fairly unforgiving when it comes to nonpayment. Even if your car insurance payment is a day or 2 late, it may be enough time for your insurance company to suspend your policy or charge you late fees.

The good news is many insurance companies now offer smartphone apps that can send you notifications to remind you when a payment is due. And some insurers in certain states may offer a grace period for late payments. If you find yourself in a position where you need to make a late payment, call your insurer first to make sure you’ll still be properly covered for that period of time.

2. Pay your entire premium upfront

If reading that your insurance policy could be canceled for being one day late on a payment freaks you out, then you may want to consider paying your entire 6- or 12-month premium in a single transaction. That way, you can avoid the processing fees your insurer likely charges your credit card when you pay each month.

3. Maintain good grades

You might’ve thought it’d be good to teach your teenage driver some responsibility by making them purchase their own insurance policy. Sorry parents, but until your young driver is at least 18 years old, they may not be able to purchase one, depending on your state’s laws.

But there is a bright side: if your teenager is a high school or college student, their good grades may qualify them for a good student discount.

4. Be careful when switching insurance policies if you have an SR-22

If you’re caught driving without insurance, you’ll probably need your insurer to file an SR-22 form on your behalf. And if you want to switch insurers while you have an SR-22 filed, it’s imperative to purchase a new policy before canceling your existing plan since any lapse in coverage may disrupt your SR-22 status. (Most insurers won’t give you credit for the time after your SR-22 was originally filed, which can cost you even more.)

For more great insurance tips, check out Answer Financial’s Insurance Center blog.

Please note: The information provided above is general and does not necessarily reflect the policies of Esurance or the discounts available through Esurance. Esurance discount amounts may vary and coverage and discounts are not available in all states.

Beat The Crowds: 6 Underrated Vacation Spots in the U.S.

It’s a nightmare scenario: you spend months planning the perfect family road trip only to hit every vacay pitfall in the book. Heavy traffic, long lines, impossible parking scenarios … not how you want to spend your precious time off. Fortunately, there are plenty of incredible off-the-beaten track options for the savvy summer traveler. Let’s take a look at 6 of the best underrated locations for your next vacation.

1. Outer Banks, North Carolina

If you thought you had to go all the way to New England to see quaint lighthouses, think again. This spot in North Carolina offers seashore views that rival those in the Northeast. Filled with small towns and seaside cottages, the Outer Banks is an idyllic coastal vacation in an unexpected location. For a little dose of excitement, you can enjoy just about any aquatic sport — including scuba diving. And if you prefer to stay dry, you could play a round of golf.

2. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

While many road trippers are on their way to Mount Rushmore this summer, you can get your American history fix in Philadelphia. This is the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall — the very place where the Declaration of Independence was signed. You can even retrace the steps of our founding fathers on an outdoor Segway tour.

3. Breckenridge, Colorado

It’s a big ski destination in the winter, but you won’t be disappointed with an “off-season” vacation in the summer. In fact, it’s a veritable wonderland for outdoor explorers. During the summer, you can go zip-lining, mountain biking, geocaching, and even dog sledding (yes, in the summer — it’s a thing!).

4. Chicago, Illinois

If you’re looking for a thrilling urban experience, but don’t want to get stuck in NYC’s many tourist traps, then Chicago is the place for you. You can wine and dine on rooftop bars, view the skyline from a relaxing boat tour along the river, and then get your outdoor theater fix. And don’t forget food — in fact, there are plenty of food tours to choose from. (Heads up: their pizza is serious business.)

5. Santa Cruz, California

While San Francisco is generally foggy in the summer, sunny Santa Cruz is just 90 minutes south. This laid-back city is full of gorgeous beaches, garden tours, and the iconic boardwalk. Plus, Monterey Bay and its famous aquarium are close by too.

6. Forgotten Coast, Florida

Key West and Miami are great, but if you’re trying to avoid the crowds and get some much-needed rest and relaxation, then Florida’s Forgotten Coast is the place for you. Loaded with beautiful, secluded beaches, quaint boutique shops, and super-fun festivals, this spot along the Florida panhandle just might be the perfect vacation destination. And you can bring your dog or go horseback riding.

No matter where the road takes you this summer, make sure you have the right car insurance so your vacation goes smoothly.

Safe travels!

8 Ways to Thwart Cybersecurity Scams

Most days, I get an email referencing a “report I requested” or an “invoice I need to pay.” Am I curious? You bet. The attachments look innocuous enough, and it’s quite possible I requested a report or have an invoice. But I tamp down my curiosity and hit delete because I know with 99 percent certainty that it’s a ruse.

Hackers have gone phishing … and your personal information is their catch.

We all know better than to fall for requests from Nigerian princes, but many of today’s phishing schemes are fairly sophisticated. The hackers’ goal is to send you to a fraudulent website where they persuade you to enter your login credentials or personal information and then have you download a file that infects your computer.

And we’re falling for these scams hook, line, and sinker. Security firm Kaspersky Labs said its anti-virus protection detected over 121 MILLION unique “malicious objects,” including nearly 2 million attempts to raid bank accounts. So how can you avoid becoming a target?

Tips to prevent internet fraud

1. Use your common sense

Your first line of defense is to think through the request. Is your nephew really going to email you from a foreign country, asking you to “wire” thousands of dollars? Probably not. Did I really get a report from the CEO of a firm that’s simply called “Food Packaging Company?” Unlikely.

2. Check the sender’s information

The most common red flag is a bizarre return email address. Sure, the “from” line might have a reputable name, but if you look at the address after it, it’s almost always something sketchy, like my food-packaging friend:Doyle.54@fibertel.com.ar. That’s not the email address a CEO is likely to be using.

3. Check the hyperlink before you click on it

You can do this by hovering your mouse over the underlined part to reveal the address it’s purportedly taking you to. If it’s authentic, it’ll likely be preceded by “https,” the “s” standing for secure. (Check out Esurance.com, for example.) Otherwise, it could be a faux site, and clicking on the link can take you to a fraudulent website where you might give them access to your personal information or have malware installed on your personal computer.

4. Look for errors

It’s unclear why fraudsters aren’t able to spell-check or use decent grammar, but almost every phishing email seems to have some egregious spelling or grammar error. (And yes, we’re more into grammar than most people, but still!) If the language seems stilted or words are missing, it could be coming from an international imposter.

5. Avoid those attachments

Just. Don’t. Click.

6. Never give personal information

Your bank isn’t going to email you and tell you there’s been an error and you need to log in to fix it. They’re just not.

7. Don’t be fooled by urgency

Do you really think the IRS is going to seize your house tomorrow for “unpaid taxes?” No.

8. Call if you’re unsure

Hackers are becoming increasingly wily and sometimes it can be hard to know what’s authentic. If you have any question about an advisory or whether your account has been compromised, call the company’s known customer service number (not the one in the email, which could be fraudulent, right?) and ask if they recently contacted you for information.

And rest assured that your info is always protected here at Esurance. Protecting the privacy of your information is of the greatest importance to us. As an insurance provider, we are regulated by Federal and State laws protecting the confidentiality and security of your information, as well as our use and disclosure of it. Whether you are a current, former, or potential customer, Esurance treats your information with the same high level of confidentiality and security. If you ever do need to speak with us, we’re available around the clock at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262).

6 Safety Mistakes You’re Making While Traveling

Terrorism. Zika. Accidents. These are the types of safety issues we tend to worry about when traveling. But what travelers often forget is that the most obvious and largely preventable safety threats are those we bring upon ourselves through carelessness or a lack of planning.

Here are 6 safety mistakes you’re probably making and how to fix them.

1. Sharing your whereabouts with the world

We get it: photos or it didn’t happen. But whether you’re humblebragging about a 5-mile hike (“I didn’t think I’d be able to make it to the top of paradise, but I did.”) or straight up bragging about your cocktails at sunset, letting the world know where you are (read: not at home) can be an invitation for burglary. Save the pics for your return.

2. Not changing your digits

Your passwords. Your PIN. Think about all the numbers you’ve been using on your trip. Thieves can be patient and they may be waiting to access accounts (or worse, steal your identity) using numbers they pilfered while you were traveling. The safest strategy is to change all your codes after you’ve been entering them into unknown machines and using open Wi-Fi. (Admit it, you probably should’ve changed your password months ago. Even Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has learned the hard way.)

And of course you check your statements faithfully every month … right? If you don’t, now’s the time to start. Make sure you go over them with a fine-tooth comb for a couple of months after your vacation.

3. Inadvertently exposing your room number

While the days of having a key emblazoned with your room number are long gone, there are still ways that your room number could fall into the wrong hands. Speak quietly with the check-in clerk to avoid having them inadvertently disclose it. (Same for the server at the downstairs bistro.) And always be aware of your surroundings when getting off an elevator. If you don’t feel safe, go back to the main floor and seek assistance.

4. Neglecting to safeguard valuables in hotels

Most hotels offer an in-room safe with varying degrees of actual “safety.” (Obviously someone in the hotel needs to know how to open them to retrieve the items when you check out and forget them). While it’s better than nothing, there are 2 other options to consider. You can secure items in a suitcase with your own combination lock and keep it in the closet, which is especially helpful for bulkier items that wouldn’t fit in the standard room safe. Or, you can bring your items down to the front desk for safekeeping. While not as convenient, it might be more secure since hotels have liability for items you leave with them (and not those in the hotel safe).

5. Failing to downsize your wallet before you go

A recent Experian® survey found that 20 percent of travelers had lost an item containing personal information like a drivers license, passport, or credit card. An easy way to avoid loss is to leave anything you don’t need at home, but almost half of these travelers said they don’t remove unnecessary credit cards before leaving. A slimmer wallet is also easier to tote, so ditch those coffee cards, gift cards, and anything else extraneous. The ideal travel wallet should contain your drivers license, a credit card or 2, your ATM card, and your health insurance information.

6. Not making copies of your passport and other docs

With today’s technology, there’s no excuse for not having a copy of all your important documents. Make copies of your passport, license, and anything else you’re carrying with you and tuck them into a carry-on. You can also scan them and email them to yourself for easy electronic retrieval. Not only can the copies help you more easily obtain new documents, but they can also provide helpful numbers to call if you need to cancel a lost or stolen credit card.

And make sure your home is protected while you’re away. Get a free renters or homeowners insurance quote today.