I heard Carl singing in our backyard, so I went outside to investigate.

He was sitting high in a tree, singing more loudly than ever.

Carl is decked out in bright red with a black mask, so he is easy to spot.

His slightly drab-looking partner, Cora, swooped in and landed in a nearby tree.

Yes, I name my favorite wildlife. Carl and Cora are the cardinal pair I enjoy observing. They have a very unique birdcall.

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I am hoping they expand their family with a flock of young cardinals. We keep their feeding station filled with their favorite seeds.

Nearby, two robins were working on a nest. I am hoping that “Mother Robin” is not quite as aggressive this year.

She dive bombed my head every time I went to my garden last year. I guess my weeding was a threat. Finally, her fledglings left the cozy nest and flew along into adulthood.

To read more of Julie Garden-Robinson's Prairie Fare, click here.

I feel a little like Mother Robin this spring. My youngest child will graduate and leave for college. As a mother, I feel a little protective of my children.

Although I am not a procrastinator typically, I find myself delaying sending out invitations to her graduation party. Soon, she will fly away from home. Life progresses quickly.

Perhaps I am procrastinating a bit. I have a monumental amount of things to do before inviting a lot of people to our home and backyard for a buffet.

I will be my own caterer. The last thing I want to do is have a truly memorable event for all the wrong reasons. I certainly do not want anyone to become ill.

Many people occasionally cook for a crowd. To get all of you readers thinking, I have questions and scenarios for you to ponder. The answers are at the end.

1. Name at least five food-handling issues associated with foodborne illness.

2. At what temperature should your refrigerator maintain food?

3. At what temperature should your freezer be set?

4. You decide to do a brunch for a graduation party and breakfast casserole is on the menu. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to what internal temperature should an egg casserole reach?

5. You are having an outdoor picnic party. The day warms to 90 F. How long is perishable food, including cut fruit and meat-containing sandwiches, safe?

6. You decide to do a backyard barbecue for a party. To what temperature should beef burgers be cooked?

7. To what internal temperature should ground turkey or chicken be cooked?

8. At what temperature should fully cooked, perishable food be maintained?

Here are the answers.

1. Frequent issues associated with foodborne illness outbreaks include the following: failure to cool food properly, food not hot enough, infected food handlers, preparation a day or more ahead of time, food left in the danger zone (41 to 140 F) too long, leftover food not reheated high enough and cross-contamination.

2. Your refrigerator should be set at 40 F or lower.

3. Your freezer should be set at 0 F or lower.

4. Cook egg casseroles to 160 F.

5. At warm temperatures above 90 F, perishable food is safe for an hour. Be sure to serve perishable cold food nested over bowls of ice. Keep hot foods hot in slow cookers or other heating devices.

6. Cook ground beef patties to 160 F.

7. Cook ground turkey or chicken patties to 165 F.

8. Keep hot foods hot – at 140 F or higher.

As you can see, temperature is a key to safety, as are basic hygiene, including handwashing, and other food safety principles.

I invite you to https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food to check out the wide range of healthful recipes, food safety tips and nutrition information. Search for NDSU Extension’s “Cooking for Groups” publication for a wide range of information to help you prepare, cook and serve food safely for any size group.

As for me, I need to plan my menu. I can’t delay sending my fledgling off toward adulthood.

I have Carl and Cora the cardinals available to entertain my guests.

Dilly Dip

1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

2 tablespoons minced fresh dill

Sliced bell peppers (1 each: red, orange, yellow, green)

Mix ingredients together in a bowl. Serve with fresh veggies or store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

Makes 16 tablespoons of dip. Each tablespoon has 35 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 3 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams and 130 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences. Follow her on Twitter @jgardenrobinson.)