Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake

So it’s true that Oct. 28 is National Chocolate Day. But really, only one day?!

At Grinnell Mutual we believe that every day is Chocolate Day. To celebrate chocolate (however often you feel it necessary) it seems pretty obvious that making something chocolate is a good answer. Because then, of course, you’ll need to eat it.

Good old Texas Sheet Cake is a pretty good place to start

Ingredients

3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups butter
4½ tablespoons cocoa
1½ cups water
3 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
1½ teaspoon soda
1½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

Mix sugar, flour, and salt and set aside.

Melt the butter, then add cocoa and water. Bring to a rapid boil and pour over the sugar mixture. Mix well.

Add eggs, buttermilk, soda, and vanilla. Mix and pour into greased jellyroll pan.

Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes and frost while still warm. Cool completely before serving.

Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients

1 cup butter
4 tbs. cocoa
½ cup milk
7 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions

Combine margarine, cocoa, and milk. Heat to boiling while stirring.

Mix in powdered sugar and vanilla until frosting is smooth. Pour warm frosting over warm cake.

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On the Hunt for Safety

Hunting requires focus, skill, and patience. Whether you’re new to the sport or learned as a kid, you should pay the same amount of attention to the safety measures necessary for hunting game.

Have gun, will travel

The premier rule of hunting is firearm safety. Even if you’re a skilled marks-person, brushing up on firearm awareness before you head into the wilderness is important.

  • Treat every firearm or bow as if it’s loaded.Even if you know you cleaned your gun last night and removed the shells, handle it as if it was full of ammunition. And never allow someone else to handle your firearm, even if they’re trained.
  • Control is key.Be hyper-aware of where your muzzle is trained, and never, ever point it — even jokingly — at another human being or yourself. And keep your finger off the trigger at all times until you’re ready to shoot the firearm.
  • Take a good look.When you spot your target, make sure you can see what’s in front of it and what’s beyond it. If you can’t see beyond the target, don’t take the shot. A life could depend on it.
  • Leave the beer at home.Alcohol impairs reaction time and judgment. Make sure you’re sober when handling a firearm or bow.

Beyond gun safety

Hunting safety doesn’t just stop at loaded firearms. Here are a handful of tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear hunter orange.Although the regulations vary by jurisdiction, most big game hunters wear hunter (blaze) orange clothing. Why? It saves lives. The bright color prevents other hunters from mistaking a person for an animal.
  • Protect man’s best friend.Many hunters enjoy hunting with their dogs, so safety precautions need to be considered for them, too. To protect Fido from barbed wire fences or thorny brush, keep your dog in a blaze orange chest protector vest. Make sure he or she has identification tags, is micro chipped, and is up to date on vaccinations and shots. And make time for frequent water and snack breaks so that your pup doesn’t end up suffering from heat stroke or hypoglycemia.
  • Get educated.Enroll in a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hunter education program. In some states, it’s required in order to get a valid hunter’s license. These programs teach everything from safety to ethics to first aid and are open to the public.

The trouble with tree stands

Although tree stands — a scaffold-type construction that allows hunters to get an elevated point of view — can be advantageous, they can also be hazardous. The small surface area a tree stand provides for sitting, standing, and kneeling can result in loss of balance, leading to a fall which can result in serious injury or death.

  • Don’t get too lofty.It’s not necessary to climb more than 15 or 20 feet to get a good view of the landscape. The higher you go, the more risk you take.
  • Choose wisely.Always use a sturdy, portable stand. Terrain can be unpredictable in the wilderness, so it’s a good idea to opt for construction that will not only support your weight, but also stay stationary.
  • Invest in good gear.A full-body harness will keep you attached to the stand if you lose your balance. And use a haul line to raise and lower your unloaded firearm. You should never climb up and down a tree stand with a loaded gun or bow.
  • Educate yourself.Consider taking an online safety course on tree stand safety. It’s free, and it could save your life.

For more information

For more outdoor safety tips, check out Grinnell Mutual’s Front Porch Blog.

The information included in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice or other advice, but should be confirmed with alternative sources.

October Pork Month is right around the corner!

Autumn has a lot to love. Although it means putting away your favorite summer toys before they acquire a thick layer of ice and snow, you’re also rewarded with gorgeous foliage, football games on crisp days, and home-cooked meals — and that makes October Pork Month very timely indeed.

So why is Pork Month in October? Traditionally, the 10th month marks the time of year hogs were marketed.  Today it simply serves as a celebration of hog farmers and the bounty they bring to the table. Because piping hot chili is the “comeback kid” when the mercury dips, try this Low & Slow Boilermaker Chili — whether you’re tailgating with friends or just enjoying a night in, this will make the promise of winter weather a little easier to swallow.

Low & Slow Boilermaker Pork Chili

8 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

3 pounds boneless pork loin, cut into 2-inch cubes

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons cilantro, chopped (optional)

3 fresh jalapeños, seeded and diced (optional — this really jacks up the spice quotient!)

3 (15-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, with juice

½ cup honey

½ cup prepared black coffee

½ cup bourbon or 1 can beer (lager or pale ale, optional)

½ cup jalapeño juice from jar (optional)

1 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained

2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, drained

1 (15-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

For garnish:

Sour cream

Cheddar cheese

Pickled jalapeños

Crushed tortilla chips

Directions

Pour 4 tablespoons of the oil into a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot and place over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Season the pork generously with salt and pepper and brown it in batches, 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Set the browned pork aside.

Pour the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil into the pot and add the diced onion, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeños. Add the brown sugar, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Stir over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the browned pork back into the pot along with the diced tomatoes, honey, coffee, and bourbon or beer. Add the beans and corn and stir well. Bring the entire mixture to a simmer, making sure to keep the burner on its lowest setting.

Let the chili simmer for 2 to 3 hours, until the pork is falling apart. Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese, pickled jalapeños, and crushed tortilla chips — or if you’re feeling especially ambitious, a pan of homemade cornbread.

More recipes just for you

You can read more about October Pork Month here, and if you’d like more tasty recipe ideas for any season, visit our Front Porch blog on grinnellmutual.com.

What to do in a car accident

It’s early in the morning, you’re on your way to work and the unexpected happens. The car in front of you stops abruptly, causing you to slam into their bumper. Now what? The steps you take following a car accident are particularly important – for you and the others involved. It’s important to be educated on what to do after an accident, especially if it’s your first.

Drive your vehicle off to the side of the road. Make sure to pull over and turn on your hazard lights. If you can’t move your vehicle, turn on the hazard lights and make sure everyone in the car has their seat belt on.

Check your surroundings. Do not immediately get out of your vehicle, especially if the accident occurred on a busy street or highway. Once the road is clear, check the safety of you and others involved in the crash. If someone is seriously injured, do not attempt to move them. Call 911 immediately.

Call the authorities. Regardless of the severity of the accident, you should always call the authorities – either 911 or the local police station.

Stay calm and state the facts. First, take a few deep breaths. As hard as it may be, remove any emotion when you are talking with the authorities. Instead, calmly explain exactly what happened. Do not take blame or shift the blame.

Be sure to stick only to the facts and do not make any excuses or apologize. Some people tend to apologize naturally, even if they are not responsible for the damages. By saying sorry or accepting the blame, you’re potentially giving evidence that can be used against you.

Assess the accident and take diligent notes. Pull out your smartphone to take pictures of your car, other cars involved and the area where the accident happened. This will only help your insurance company even more when evaluating the accident. Make sure to jot down the details of what happened and when. These will come in handy later. If weather (icy roads, torrential rainfall or poor conditions) was a factor, be sure to note that.

Don’t post about your accident on social media. Almost anyone can access it – an opposing attorney or the at-fault party’s insurance company could use these posts as justification to lower or even completely withdraw a potential settlement offer.

Make sure to get all the information from other parties involved. Double check to make sure you have the names, addresses, phone numbers, license plate number, driver’s license number, insurance provider and policy number. It’s also a good idea to keep record of responding officers such as names and titles in case you need to contact them at a later date.

Contact your independent insurance agent. After you’ve gathered the information needed, taken pictures and reviewed your policy, reach out to your agent. They’ll be able to help you with the next steps. They’ll likely recommend that you file a claim. Don’t wait on filing this – the sooner you file a claim, the quicker the insurance company can start processing it.

Exploring Types of Auto Insurance

Auto insurance is a broad and very general term when you consider that there are multiple coverage types available, each protecting vehicle owners, drivers and/or passengers in different ways. Understanding each specific type and when it should be purchased (or not) can help you select the most practical protection for your needs — potentially saving you money. As you read the descriptions below, keep in mind that every policy is different and consulting with an independent insurance agent is the best way to choose the coverage’s that best align with your specific needs.

Liability Insurance

  • Overview: If an accident is determined to be your fault, liability insurance covers the cost of repairs to any property that was damaged in the accident and for any medical bills resulting from injuries from the accident. While policies clearly articulate specific limits, an insurance company will defend the policyholder as necessary above and beyond those limits
  • Best for: This type of coverage is appropriate for all owners/vehicles
  • Required?Yes

Collision Insurance

  • Overview: In the event of an accident, collision insurance will cover any related repairs to your vehicle, though the policyholder shares in a portion of the loss through his or her deductible. If your car is considered “totaled” (too costly to repair based on the vehicle’s current value), this type of insurance will reimburse the policyholder for the current value of the car. Additional coverage might be available (for an added cost) to replace the vehicle with a newer car of the same make and model.
  • Best for: This type of insurance is best for relatively new vehicles (typically less than 10 years old) and for high-end, expensive vehicles. It’s important to consider purchasing this coverage because without it, the vehicle owner is responsible for all vehicle repair or replacement costs associated with the accident if it’s determined that he or she is responsible for the accident.
  • Required?Collision insurance is only required if the vehicle is leased or there is a lien against the vehicle.

Comprehensive Insurance

  • Overview: Sometimes referred to as “Other Than Collision” coverage, comprehensive insurance covers accidental damage that typically does not result from a vehicle accident, like damage caused by fire, hail, theft and glass breakage.
  • Best for: Comprehensive insurance is appropriate for every owner who cares about the appearance and drivability of his or her vehicle. Without this type of coverage, the vehicle owner is typically responsible for all repair or replacement costs associated with accidental damage
  • Required?Comprehensive insurance is required only if the vehicle is leased or there is a lien against the vehicle

Medical Payments Coverage/Personal Injury Protection

  • Overview: State laws will determine which coverage option can be purchased. They cover a limited amount of related medical expenses for you and your passengers, no matter who is determined to be at fault for the accident.
  • Best For: This protection is appropriate for all vehicles/owners, though it is not available in all states
  • Required?In states where personal injury protection is available it’s typically required; in states without the coverage, “medical payments” coverage is generally available and provides similar protections

Uninsured/Under-insured Motorist Protection

  • Overview: Uninsured/under-insured motorist protection covers expenses related to bodily injury caused by an accident if: 1) another party is responsible for that accident and 2) if that party does not carry liability insurance, or has lower/inadequate limits on their liability insurance
  • Best For: This coverage is practical for all vehicles/owners
  • Required?This protection is required in most states

Umbrella/Excess Liability Insurance

  • Overview: These policies offer coverage beyond homeowners and auto liability protection limits. Umbrella/excess liability limits are typically $1 million or more and can protect all personal exposures, and also cover libel, slander, misrepresentation and other personal injury types
  • Best For: Typically drivers who have significant personal assets that could be seized or jeopardized as a result of catastrophic liability costs or lawsuits
  • Required?This insurance is not required

There are other coverage’s worth mentioning here, like Towing & Labor. This coverage pays for the cost to tow your vehicle if it becomes disabled for any reason. Transportation Expenses coverage (or Rental Reimbursement coverage) pays for your rental of a vehicle if yours is damaged due to a loss covered under the policy.

Having adequate and appropriate protections in place is critical to help ensure that your vehicle-related exposures — and the potential costs associated with them — are mitigated. Independent Insurance Agents are well-versed in each type of protection and can help you evaluate each to determine those that make the most sense based on your needs.

10 easy home maintenance projects every homeowner should do this summer

Summer is here! There’s a seemingly unending amount of fun summer activities to keep Midwesterners busy during the season, but between spending time relaxing with friends and family, taking your summer vehicles out for a spin and enjoying the great outdoors, homeowners should also take some time to give some TLC to their property to minimize the risk of damage or injuries.

Doing some simple home maintenance projects during the summer months can help improve the safety of your home, keeping you and your loved ones as safe as possible. To help make sure your property is safe, here are 10 easy maintenance projects to keep your home in great shape:

  1. Check your basement for cracks in the foundation, leaks and seepage
  2. Look for and fill any cracks in your driveway or concrete patio
  3. Check your deck for rotted wood, cracked and raised boards, missing screws and overall structural integrity. You should also check to see if it needs to be re-stained or resealed to extend its life
  4. Grab a ladder and check for any loose or leaky gutters. While you’re up there, make sure the gutters are clear of any leaves or debris
  5. Look for any trees in your yard that have exposed roots that could cause trips and falls. Cover exposed roots with a mulch bed around the base of your tree to smooth everything out
  6. Check your wooden patio furniture that may be weathered and give it a good sanding to avoid causing any splinters or nasty cuts
  7. If you have an in-ground fire pit, add some decorative stones or other landscaping around it to avoid causing tripping
  8. Make sure your air conditioning system is working properly by giving it a good cleaning. Don’t know where to start? Check out DIY Network’s easy guide to cleaning your air conditioning unit
  9. Inspect and clean your dryer vent. Each year, thousands of avoidable house fires are caused by dryer vents that get clogged with lint. Give your external dryer vent a good cleaning. This simple video will even walk you through the process!
  10. Check to see that your dehumidifier is working properly, and double (or even triple) check to make sure that it isn’t on the recall list(and if it is on the recall list, replace it immediately!)

One last tip: if you’re doing any project that requires digging in your yard, always call the experts who can help you locate underground facilities (electric, gas, etc…). No matter what state you live in, just dial 811 for Diggers HotlineGopher State One Call or Iowa One Call.

Four Insurance Tips for Your College-bound Student

You’re about to send your college student off on a new adventure. But did you think about insurance coverage for your young adult? College is a major life event that can trigger the need to review your insurance. It’s good to start off on the right foot and understand what’s covered and what isn’t.

Here are a few considerations we’d like to share with Mom and Dad that maybe weren’t on the list of “things to take to college.”

  1. Update your auto policy.

Will your son or daughter be taking a car to college or leaving it at home? Make sure to let your agent know if any car covered by your policy will be kept in a new location to ensure full coverage in the event of an accident or theft. The location where the vehicle is stored can affect your rates. Don’t forget to check to see if good student discounts, or similar discounts, are available. These can help lower premiums or monthly rates.

  1. Prepare your son or daughter for life’s unexpected events.

Some students may not know what to do if their belongings are stolen. First and foremost, your son or daughter should immediately call law enforcement and file a police report. Many insurance carriers will not cover claims for theft unless a police report is filed. From there, contact your independent agent for assistance in filing a claim.

  1. Consider a renters’ policy, especially for off-campus dwellers.

A renters’ policy will cover your son or daughter’s belongings in case of theft, damage, fire, liability and some water damage, making it a good choice for students living off campus.

You should speak to your independent agent about a replacement cost endorsement. Most renters’ policies cover your belongings at actual cash value. For example, if your son or daughter’s 10-year-old TV is stolen, the renters’ policy will give you the equivalent of what the TV is worth today, which is likely not much. With a replacement cost endorsement, your TV will be replaced with a current item of relatively similar value, within reason.

  1. It’s never too early for life insurance.

Consider purchasing a term life policy for your son or daughter if they plan to use any type of loan to help with tuition. In the event that something should happen to them before the loan is paid off, proceeds from a life insurance policy can be used to pay the balance of the loan. Premiums are based on several factors; one is overall health. Your child is likely young and if they’re in good health, then their term life insurance premium will be lower.

Another benefit to purchasing life insurance for your children when they’re in college is that later on, if they choose to convert from term insurance to a permanent policy, the new premium will be based on their health in college, likely resulting in a lower permanent policy premium.

So even though you checked off the “take to college list”, you may want to add one more item titled “insurance” and then call your independent agent today. Courtesy of Integrity Insurance

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