Comfort Food Friday: Jalapeno Cheddar Eggs Benedict with Cilantro-Lime Hollandaise

A Weekly Segment from Food Blogger Rachael White

I love brunch. It’s one of those meals that manages to bring all of my favorite foods and flavors together on one plate. Eggs, cheese, bread, coffee… how can one say no to these things? Part of the reason, in my opinion, that so many people enjoy brunch is the comforting dishes that are offered. From French toast to savory quiche and big mugs of coffee, there is something that appeals to just about everyone.

Best Paper Shredder

One of my favorite brunch offerings has always been eggs benedict. Seeing eggs benedict on the menu at a restaurant conjures a kind of siren-call reaction in my soul, and I cannot resist. The creamy, silky hollandaise that blankets two perfectly poached eggs with brightly colored yolks that soak slowly into the English muffin base is nothing short of perfection. And really, how can you go wrong with anything that is covered in an emulsion of egg yolks and butter?

As if you needed any more reasons to love this dish, it is kind of a blank canvas. You can create your own versions using seasonal ingredients, giving this classic meal a fun twist. The recipe I’m sharing with you today features jalapeños, a popular item to plant in salsa gardens this time of year, along with cilantro.

I began by making fluffy, rich cream biscuits studded with bright green jalapeños and sharp white cheddar cheese. It would have been acceptable to stop right there, seeing as how the biscuits were fluffy and warm and perfect slathered with a little butter right out of the oven. But no, I had to go and top them with two perfectly poached eggs and a decadent cilantro-lime hollandaise. If you are nervous about making the sauce, let me introduce you to a foolproof method: blender hollandaise. It is insanely simple and results in an airy, creamy sauce in only 5 minutes.

I encourage you to give this recipe a try. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make a restaurant-quality brunch dish at home. Once you have the method under control, get creative and have fun experimenting with different flavor combinations for both the biscuits and the hollandaise.

Ingredients for jalapeno-cheddar eggs benedict with cilantro-lime hollandaise

Rachael White

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JALAPENO-CHEDDAR BISCUITS:

(Makes 6–8 biscuits)

  • 2 fresh jalapenos
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar or sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Homemade jalapeno-cheddar biscuits

Rachael White

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and set rack in the centermost position. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Cut jalapenos in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Coarsely chop and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Add the cheese and jalapenos and toss to evenly distribute through dry ingredients. Add the whipping cream and stir just until the dough comes together. (It will be ragged at first but will smooth out as the dough is kneaded.)

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead until the dough is mostly smooth. Pat into a 3/4-inch-thick round.

Using a circular biscuit cutter or a glass with flour on the rim, cut out 3 or 4 circles and place them on your prepared baking sheet. (If you use a glass, use one with a thin rim. If it is too thick, it will press down too much on the biscuits, and they won’t rise.) Bring together scraps and pat out, again, to 3/4 inches. Repeat until all the dough is used. You should end up with 6-8 biscuits, depending on the size of your cutter.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

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PERFECTLY POACHED EGGS:

(Makes 8 poached eggs, enough for 4 servings of the eggs benedict)

  • 8 large eggs, room temperature
  • White vinegar (this is optional, but helps to hold the egg together during poaching, which is very helpful for beginners)

Poached eggs for eggs benedict recipe

Rachael White

Bring a medium pot of water to a simmer. Add a splash of vinegar to the water. Crack one egg into a small bowl. Using a wooden spoon, create a whirlpool in the water. Working quickly but gently, pour the egg into the center of the whirlpool. Allow the egg to poach for about 5 minutes before removing it from the water with a slotted spoon.

You can poach more than one egg at a time using this method, but do not do more than four at a time. I find two at a time is easiest to manage. The eggs can be kept in a bowl until you are ready to serve them. Add a little room temperature water to the bowl to keep them from sticking together until you are ready to plate your eggs benedict.

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CILANTRO-LIME HOLLANDAISE:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Dash or two of hot sauce
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

Homemade cilantro-lime Hollandaise sauce for eggs benedict

Rachael White

In a blender, combine the egg yolks, mustard, lime juice, and hot sauce. Blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly pour in the melted butter until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 30-45 seconds. Add the cilantro and pulse five one-second pulses just to incorporate the leaves into the sauce.

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TO ASSEMBLE THE EGGS BENEDICT:

Cut four biscuits in half, one biscuit per plate. Place them cut side up on your plates. Gently put a poached egg on top of each biscuit half, then cover with hollandaise and garnish with additional cilantro leaves and a lime wedge. Serve immediately.

Jalapeno Cheddar Eggs Benedict with Cilantro-Lime Hollandaise

Rachael White

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What flavor combinations would you suggest for eggs benedict? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below!…

Homemade Pet Food Recipe: Baked Veggies and Chicken

Thanks to Barbara Taylor-Laino’s The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook, you can make healthy and tasty meals for your four-legged friend, right in your own kitchen. You and I wouldn’t want to eat the same low-nutrient food day after day, and our pets shouldn’t have to, either. With 75 whole food recipes for dogs and cats, Barbara Taylor-Laino guides readers on the path of matching our pet’s diet to his or her nutritional needs with the healthiest, freshest food possible.

Ulrike Welsch / The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook

You don’t have to dive into homemade pet food headfirst, though. Try easing into it by finding a balance of homemade and commercial pet foods. Figure out what works best for your budget and time, and learn what your best buddy needs and enjoys.

All or Nothing? Combining Homemade and Commercial Pet Foods

Don’t assume that feeding your pet a homemade diet has to be an all-or-nothing routine. You can make a huge difference in your pet’s health by supplementing a good commercial diet with whole-food side dishes. Buy the best-quality ingredients you can afford and focus on nutrient-rich foods. An egg, a scoop of canned fish, a steamed carrot, a dollop of yogurt, or some fresh chicken liver are perfect additions to a meal of commercial food. With very little work and expense, you can really elevate the nutritional level of each meal.

Even small additions to your pet’s diet can have big effects healthwise; if your pet has the building blocks of a variety of healthy nutrients in her system, then she will be able to compensate for any unhealthy ingredients or foods. For instance, if your cat has always had a healthy diet and a friend comes over and gives her a commercial cat treat full of horrible preservatives, sugar, and artificial flavors, you don’t need to worry. You can feel confident that your cat has the nutritional building blocks in her system to handle the onslaught of the bad food.

Also, by adding fresh ingredients to your pet’s commercial food, you won’t unbalance anything, despite the claims of the commercial brands’ advertising and marketing. But because commercial diets are in general designed to provide a full balance of nutrients in one serving, I would suggest that to be safe, don’t add more than 25 percent extra ingredients on a regular basis. For example, if the maker of your commercial food recommends that you feed your golden retriever 2 cups of canned food (400 g) per day, then when you want to add some canned salmon, feed ½ cup (113 g) of canned salmon and about 1⅓ cups (287 g) of the commercial food. If you increase it to 50 percent fresh food one or two days per week, that’s okay. Your pet’s nutrient balance won’t be thrown off by one or two meals. You always have to keep the big picture in mind—what your meals look like for the week and for the entire month. Also, keep in mind that the more variety you have in your additions, the less you have to worry about percentages.

If you’re adding some canned salmon, some tahini, a spoonful of honey, and an egg, the balance starts working itself out perfectly. Another way to integrate the two diets is to feed a commercial diet four days a week and mix your own homemade meals three days a week.

One piece of advice: I would avoid adding too many carbohydrates as supplements to a commercial diet, because most commercial diets are already too high in carbs. But if you’re using a high-protein/high-meat commercial diet, then adding ingredients such as carrots, barley, steamed broccoli, beet juice, oatmeal, etc., would be ideal. There are a lot of great new commercial diets out there, and many are specifically designed to allow you to add extras.

Ready to jump into preparing homemade food for your best four-legged friend? Here’s a great way to begin: make them Big Baked Veggies and Sautéed Chicken Thighs.

Glenn Scott / The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook

Big Baked Veggies and Sautéed Chicken Thighs

A Cooked, Grainless Meal for Cats & Dogs

Ingredients:

  • 2 beets
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons (7 g) minced fresh herbs or 2 tablespoons (4 g) dried mixed herbs (rosemary, thyme, mint, sage, oregano, and/or marjoram, etc.)
  • 2 pounds (910 g) boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (3.5 ounces, or 100 g) sardines

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C, or gas mark 4). Wash, peel, and cut up the beets, sweet potato, and squash into similarly sized pieces, about 1 inch. Place in a small oiled or buttered baking dish, and toss with about 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until soft and lightly browned. Let cool, mash up, and mix in the herbs.

Rinse the chicken thighs and cut into strips. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and garlic, and cook until the chicken is no longer pink inside, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. In a large bowl, mix the chicken, sardines, and vegetables together.

Serving: Feed 1/4 cup (50 g) twice a day to a medium-size cat; 1 cup (200 g) twice a day to a medium-size dog.

Variations: If you aren’t serving this as a human meal, you can leave the chicken on the rare side.


For more information about this topic check out The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook

The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook

75 Whole-Food Recipes and Tasty Treats for Dogs and Cats of All Ages

  • Barbara Taylor-Laino (author)
  • Kenneth Fischer (foreword by)

The Healthy Homemade Pet Food Cookbook teaches you how to tailor your pet’s diet to their specific nutritional needs for better health and behavior with 75 easy-to-make recipes.

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Beer Lesson: Porters and Stouts

As the craft beer craze continues to sweep the nation, more and more people are deciding to try their hand at creating their own perfect brew. In Craft Beer for the Homebrewer, beer writer and certified cicerone (think sommelier for beer) Michael Agnew merges the passions of consumption and creation into one definitive guidebook, designed for the craft beer lover who also happens to be a homebrew enthusiast. Below is an excerpt from the book, background about porters and stouts–perfect styles of deep, dark beer for cold, grey winter days.

Source – Craft Beer for the Homebrewer

When most people think of stouts they picture that pint of Guinness—the creamy off-white foam cascading into the impenetrable blackness of the underlying beer. For many that dusky hue equates to heavy. How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh, that’s thick,” when pouring a stout or porter?

It’s time to put that myth to rest. Black is neither a flavor nor a texture. Color tells you surprisingly little about how a beer might ultimately taste. The many sub-styles of Porter and stout run the gamut from dry and light to heavy and sweet. On the lighter end is the sessionable Irish stout. That so-called “meal-in-a-glass” Guinness, for example, is under 4 percent alcohol and has only a few more calories than a typical American light lager. Intense rostiness and a creamy texture from nitrogen gas give the impression of a much fuller-bodied beer. Moving up the ladder are robust and Baltic porters as well as milk, oatmeal, and foreign “extra stouts.” All feature rich chocolate and coffee flavors with varying levels of sweetness and roast. But the style reaches its pinnacle with the luscious thickness of Russian imperial stout

beer

Source – Craft Beer for the Homebrewer

What’s the difference between a porter and a stout? That’s hard to say. The line is blurry, and the same adjectives are used to describe both. I’ve come to the conclusion that a beer is a porter or a stout mostly because the brewer says it is. I believe that history bears this out.

Long ago in England, “stout” simply meant strong beer. There were pale stouts and brown stouts. Porter referred to a type of aged brown beer that was popular with the ticket porters in London. Porter came in varying strengths, with the strongest being called “stout porter.”

From the mid-1700s to the late 1800s porter enjoyed immense popularity, and its production changed the way beer was made. Porter was the first mass-produced beer and one of the first mass-produced products of the industrial revolution. London’s biggest porter brewers were cranking out beer in volumes that exceed most of today’s regional breweries. Porter brewers initiated the practice of bulk-aging beers, keeping it in vats holding thousands of gallons. They were the first to use the thermometer and hydrometer to better control the brewing process.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the popularity of porter began to fade as tastes moved to pale ales. As alcohol levels in beer declined generally, the term “stout” became more singularly associated with strong porters. By the early twentieth century the style had nearly disappeared. Porter was so out of favor that many brewers didn’t want their product associated with it. They simply called their black beers stout. It wasn’t until the 1980s that American and English craft brewers began to revive the once-proud style.…

Start Seeds in an Egg Carton

Author Renata Fossen Brown wisely states, “Gardening is a personal endeavor, and whatever makes you happy should be what you do.” Hear, hear, Renata! Gardening is a joy for people of all ages, and gardening with kids can be a true delight. In addition to guiding readers through 52 fun garden projects, Renata’s book Gardening Lab for Kids offers kids the opportunity to try new skills, explore the world around them, and take happy, respectful ownership of the outdoors. From a DIY sprinkler to a salsa garden, kids will discover an abundance of ways they can develop their green thumb and seek happiness in the process. In this tutorial for starting seeds in an egg carton, Gardening Lab for Kids invites kids to be part of the early stages of bringing a garden to life.

Dave Brown / Gardening Lab for Kids

Starting seedlings indoors is an easy way to save money because a packet of seeds is much cheaper than a tray full of plants. It’s also a great way to start gardening earlier in the season rather than having to wait until it warms up outside.

Before starting this Lab, cover your workspace with newspapers and gather your materials.

Materials You’ll Need

  • Permanent marker
  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Seed-starting mix
  • Spoon or small trowel
  • Seeds: tomato, hot pepper, sweet pepper, and so on
  • Spray bottle

Dig In!

1. Use a permanent marker to label the lid of the egg carton with the names of the seeds you will plant in each segment. Using a spoon or small trowel, fill each indentation with soil. (Fig. 1)

Dave Brown / Gardening Lab for Kids

Fig. 1: Fill each segment with soil.

2. Plant your seeds to the proper depth (read the package directions for each type of seed). (Fig. 2)

Dave Brown / Gardening Lab for Kids

Fig. 2: Plant your seeds.

3. Use your spray bottle to water your seeds. A spray bottle, as opposed to a watering can, lightly waters your seeds so they don’t wash away. (Fig. 3)

Dave Brown / Gardening Lab for Kids

Fig. 3: Gently water your seeds.

4. Close the lid on your container and put it somewhere warm. Check your seeds daily. Once plants begin to pop through the soil, keep the lid open and make sure your seeds get plenty of light. If using an artificial light, keep your seedlings 1″ to 2″ (2.5 to 7.5 cm) from the light. When your seedlings are ready to transplant outside, cut the egg carton sections apart. Based on the seed package directions, plant your seedlings (egg carton section and all) in the ground at the directed distance apart from each other. Water your plants in well. (Fig. 4)

Dave Brown / Gardening Lab for Kids

Fig. 4: Keep the seeds warm and check daily for growth.

Dig Deeper!  Tips for starting seeds indoors:

–Once seeds sprout, use a ruler to measure your plants every morning. Create a chart to keep track of how much they grow every day. You’ll be surprised how fast some seedlings grow!

Plant seeds indoors six to ten weeks before your last frost date. You can look up this information online or in gardening books. Every area’s frost date is different, so look up your own. At www.plantmaps.com, you can enter your ZIP code to find the last date in the spring your area typically gets frost.

–As your seedlings get taller, lower them from the light source so that the tops of your plants still remain 1″ to 2″ (2.5 to 5 cm) below it. If your light source can be raised higher, do that; if not, place your egg carton on books or cans that you can remove gradually to lower the plants away from the light.


For more information about this topic check out Gardening Lab for Kids

Gardening Lab for Kids

52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play, and Enjoy Your Garden

  • Renata Brown (author)

A refreshing source of ideas to help your children learn to grow their own garden, this book encourages families to enjoy nature. It features 52 fun and creative plant-related activities set into weekly lessons.

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Q&A with Shawna Coronado

Shawna Coronado tackles Living Walls according to space and goals of the gardener. Below is a Q&A that Cool Springs Press did with Coronado:

Source – Grow a Living Wall

Q: If you have a 3-by-3-foot patio, what living wall system works best?

A: Tiny balconies and patios that are no larger than three foot by three foot are perfect for smaller living wall systems such a framed small box system. It offers stylish growing capabilities on a wall or door that does not overwhelm a newbie grower. However, the walls in that same three foot by three foot space could be filled to the brim with more than 40 plants if the walls were filled with pocket vertical garden systems. Imagine growing 40 plants in that tiny space. Other gardeners have to have a large ground space to do that, plus they have to till and weed. There is no tilling or weeding necessary with a living wall system.

Q: If you’re a homeowner with sprawling backyard and/or fences, what do you recommend?

A: Sprawling gardens with large spaces and long stretches of outdoor fencing is another perfect arena for living wall systems. Most garden design along walls feature ground plantings or shrubs with little or no vertical eye appeal. Growing hundreds of flowers or ornamental edible vegetable plants along large stretches of outdoor fencing can be an amazingly beautiful addition to a garden. With plants stacked on top of one another in a living wall system, gardeners have an area that is more confined with which to water. Weeding chores become unnecessary and watering becomes more sustainable because both self-watering systems and hand watering drip down on top of the plants below them. This means you will use less water to water a vertical wall garden.

Source – Grow a Living Wall

Q: You’re quite passionate about pollinator gardens. Can you explain why they matter?

A: Pollinator gardens are increasingly important in an era where society is concerned about pollinator movement for food safety. Growing an organic garden filled with gorgeous flowering pollinator plants is quite possible with a vertical living wall system. Envision vertical wall systems stretching across large metro areas in order to create pollinator corridors. These corridors can help pollinators survive longer by helping them find a path through hot cement deserts across North America. Should we place living wall systems with pollinator plants stretching throughout urban areas on balconies, fences, and patios, we are increasing the chances of pollinator survival.

Q: Can you offer a list of gardening systems and maintenance that they require?

A: Of course.

1. Window Box Style Planter System – A window box style planter system can be either stand-alone unit or attached to a wall, gate, or fence. Benefits of the window box style unit include more soil and a wider planting zone, easy access for watering, and deeper root growing availability. Additionally, these units often hold more plants, so work well no matter the size of space you have. You can easily cover an entire wall with this type of system or fit it in an extremely small nook. The units are versatile and long lasting. Cleaning is simple as you only have to pull the container tray out of the unit to clean it.

2. Wall Felt Pocket Systems – Felt pocket systems have been around for some time and are typically made from recycled BPA free plastics. Each unit rests flatter against a wall than other styles of systems, so might be more of a fit for very narrow areas. Watering is extremely easy with these units and many have self-watering tubes attached through the back of the system to enable lower maintenance. The only critical maintenance is the units need to be completely pulled down annually for cleaning and upkeep.

3. Framed Small Box System – Small framed units are absolutely delightful in small spaces and easily hang on doors, gates, balcony fences, and walls. Plants can be changed out effortlessly. They are easy to maintain, although I’ve had more success watering from the front for outdoor units, rather than the top of the vertical wall garden.

4. Hydroponic Box System – Hydroponic box systems offer the advantage of not needing soil and are very easy to maintain. These systems work great with all variety of plants, but particularly drought tolerant plants such as succulents. Each block unit must be soaked in water every few weeks to ensure the plants get the required water. Seasonal cleanup is a snap – simply take the unit down and pull the plants out.

5. Large Free Standing System – Large free standing systems are great for growing large quantities of plants and can fit in a three foot or less space. An advantage of the system is the self-watering pump which makes watering easier. However, the units are often connected to a self-watering base and can be quite heavy.

6. Make-Your-Own System – There are dozens of different homemade living wall systems that make fantastic vertical wall gardens. Within the book I’ve focused on cones of hanging containers, pallet gardens, glass jars or other small containers, and shelving unit style gardens. All offer money-saving and creative alternatives to purchasing systems.

Check out this video of Shawna’s own garden.

Much of her book’s photos were taken over the course of several years from her own space. This is a project that’s near and dear to her…

Top 10 Safety Tips for Farm Machinery

Whether you’re new to farming or your ancestry spans generations of working the land, you know that every kind of working farm requires a wealth of knowledge and skill in order to run well. In The Complete Illustrated Guide to Farming by Samantha Johnson and Philip Hasheider, that profusion of technical information is explored in great depth with an abundance of photos and how-to guides on every page. From soil health and harvesting to raising cows and making cheese, Johnson and Hasheider walk readers through the basics of farming, while always highlighting best practices for safety along the way. Here are their essential top ten tips for working safely with farm machinery:

Rick Kubik / The Complete Illustrated Guide to Farming

Always, always, always follow these top ten safety procedures when using machinery on your farm. This is not a complete list of all the safety procedures you need, but it’s a good start.

1. Wear suitable equipment such as heavy gloves, eye and hearing protection, and boots with nonslip soles.

2. Observe warning labels.

3. Before attempting to unplug, clean out, adjust, repair, or lubricate any unit, turn off the source of power and physically block any parts that may suddenly move when an obstruction is removed.

4. Once power is shut off, wait for the mechanism to come to a complete stop before approaching the machine.

5. Do not allow children or pets to remain in the tractor cab or operator’s station. They could accidentally engage the machine drive or PTO.

6. Secure any dangling clothes, hair, or jewelry that could get tangled in the machine.

7. Never attempt to engage or disengage a v-belt drive by pulling on the belt with your hands.

8. If the machine is held up by hydraulic power, set blocks to prevent unexpected movement before you crawl underneath the machine.

9. Before you move a machine or engage the drive, be sure you know where any bystanders, especially children, are located.

10. Avoid moving in reverse unless you can be certain there is no one behind you.


For more information about this topic check out The Complete Illustrated Guide to Farming

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Farming

  • Philip Hasheider (author)
  • Samantha Johnson (author)

The Complete Illustrated Guide to Farming explains farming from start to finish. It’s an encyclopedia for the beginning farmer, hobby farmer, small-scale family farmer, or dreamer.

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How Internal Combustion Engines Work

Winter is a good time for taking the time to learn new skills or delve deeper into topics that interest you. Well, at least up here in the northlands where below zero temps make a cup of coffee at the workbench inside very appealing. I suppose if you live in Hawai’i the only difference in seasons is which side of the island has better waves. But there’s no snow to shovel, so still extra time for learning new things.

Anyway, something I find very interesting is that many people do not even have the most rudimentary understanding of the workings of items they use daily. I guess my family was a bit unusual in that as children we were encouraged to take things apart and/or build things. Well, actually the adults did that, too. And, since my parents were children of the Depression and WWII rationing, they fixed everything rather than buying new. I actually still have my grandmother’s pressure cooker with the home-built replacement handles.

My eighth grade science class had a unit on internal combustion engines, complete with a full-size clear Lucite engine that could be hand cranked to move the camshaft, pistons, and valves. To this day I think that unit was the most useful of my K-12 experience. Even though I don’t pull my car apart on a regular basis, it is in a general way helpful to understand how it all works. The single cylinder, four-stroke engine of your gasoline lawn mower is the same internal combustion engine as your twelve cylinder Jaguar, without all the clutter and computerization and eleven extra cylinders. Small Engines and Outdoor Power Equipment has the perfect primer on how small engines work, which is exactly how big engines work. Here’s the very clear, excellent description of the 4-stroke cycle.

The 4-Stroke Cycle

How Internal Combustion Engines Work

Small Engines and Outdoor Power Equipment

The Intake Stroke

During the intake stroke, a mixture of air and fuel is introduced to the combustion chamber. The intake valve is open and the piston moves from Top Dead Center (TDC) to Bottom Dead Center (BDC).

To understand what happens next, think of the suction produced like a syringe drawing liquid. This happens because as the plunger inside slides toward the handle, it creates a low-pressure area at the tip. A piston performs the identical task. As the piston moves toward BDC, it creates a low-pressure area in the cylinder and draws the air-fuel mixture through the intake valve. The mixture continues to flow, due to inertia, as the piston moves beyond BDC. Once the piston moves a few degrees beyond BDC, the intake valve closes, sealing the air-fuel mixture inside the cylinder.

The Compression Stroke

Compression occurs as the piston travels toward TDC, squeezing the air-fuel mixture to a smaller volume. The air-fuel mixture is compressed for a more efficient burn and to allow more energy to be released faster when the mixture is ignited. Think about the warning label on pressurized spray cans: Keep contents away from fire. This is not only because the contents are flammable, but because pressurization makes them potentially explosive. If an engine has to perform so much work just to bring the air-fuel mixture to the point of combustion, where does it find the ability to perform work? This ability derives from the fact that the energy required for compression—and stored in the flywheel—is still far less than the force produced during combustion. In a typical small engine, compression requires one-fourth the energy produced during combustion. The surplus drives the power stroke.

The Power Stroke

The engine’s intake and exhaust valves are now closed. At approximately 20 degrees before TDC, the spark plug initiates combustion, creating a flame that burns the compressed air-fuel mixture. The hot gases produced by combustion have no way to escape, so they push the piston away from the cylinder head. That motion is transferred through the connecting rod to apply torque to the crankshaft.

The Exhaust Stroke

As the piston reaches BDC during the power stroke, the power stroke is completed. The exhaust valve opens, allowing the piston to evacuate exhaust as it moves, once again, toward TDC. With the chamber cleared of exhaust, the piston reaches TDC. An entire cycle is complete.


For more information about this topic check out Small Engines and Outdoor Power Equipment

Small Engines and Outdoor Power Equipment

A Care & Repair Guide for: Lawn Mowers, Snowblowers & Small Gas-Powered Imple

  • Peter Hunn (editor)

A practical, hands-on guide for repairing and maintaining small gas engines and the things they power: lawnmowers, snowblowers, chain saws, power washers, generators, portable lawn care equipment, and more.

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