Ultimate Summer Grill Off With Chad Decker and Stephanie Nuce:
The first place I ever ate at in Stephenville, TX was Hard 8 BBQ. This restaurant is everything that is right about BBQ. You pull in to the parking lot and you can see stacks of mesquite fire wood ready to be thrown into the smokers where some logs are already turning into coals and the smoke clouds fill the sky. You wait in line smelling the hot BBQ that is ready to be plated, or lack there of, more like placed on a tray with a piece of wax paper as your plate. All of this adds to the charm of a place like Hard 8 BBQ, where pictures of famous cowboys and cowgirls who frequent the large joint cover the walls. When a restaurant is located in the “Cowboy Capital of the World” you are sure to see every face you could imagine.
Now the way I grew up, the men are the ones who do the grilling. Us ladies would be inside preparing the sides and desserts while the guys would take care of all the meat. Chad Decker, the owner of Hard 8, often caters the annual spring branding at the ranch and knows how to grill the meat. I wanted to have a backyard BBQ and couldn’t think of anyone better to come teach me some grilling tricks. He arrived with sausage, ribs, and a whole chunk of sirloin.
Now I know we are all used to the traditional sides that accompany a BBQ: potato salad, macaroni and cheese, etc. Besides the high caloric numbers of these sides, they offer hardly any nutritional value. The last thing I want to do is feel guilty and heavy after enjoying a wonderful meal with friends and family. Summer is the perfect time to incorporate so many fresh, local vegetables and fruit. Everything is so ripe and bursting with flavor so why not enjoy the taste and health benefits of the amazing produce the earth has created!
This is where I invited my friend Stephanie Nuce out to help me prepare some healthy side dishes. Stephanie is married to Ted Nuce, who used to ride bulls with Ty. Stephanie is like a pioneer woman who is really into healthy, whole food nutrition. She raises her own chickens, ferments her own kombucha, loves to can and preserve, and bakes delicious sourdough bread. She made a kale salad at Thanksgiving last year and it was to die for so I requested she teach me how to make that salad. I in turn decided to make a watermelon serrano salad, Ty’s favorite fruit recipe. Honestly, anything with chilies or peppers makes Ty a happy cowboy. Watermelon is so refreshing and hydrating during the hot summer months in Texas. For dessert we made some mini “pecan pies.” Stephanie also introduced me to these little bites of heaven and I can’t think of any dessert that taste any better!
Let’s just say we sold all the cowboys on “the green stuff” and all the women were asking for the recipes! It feels so nice to show folks that healthy doesn’t mean cardboard, flavorless food.
Sausage, Ribs, and Sirloin from Chad Decker
Watermelon Serrano Salad:
- 1 watermelon cut into chunks
- 1/2 -1 whole serrano pepper- deseeded and minced
- 1 bunch of mint chopped finely
- 1 T olive oil
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- Toss all ingredients in a bowl and chill
Kale Superfood Salad
- 3 Large bunched of Kale chopped and destemmed
- 1 cup Raw pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup Extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 T Honey
- 1 lemon
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- Shredded parmesan cheese *optional
- 1 or 2 carrots shredded
- Salt and pepper
- Other optional toppings: cherry tomatoes, avocado, apple slices, bell pepper, etc.
- Add kale to a large bowl and drizzle a little olive oil over it
- Add the juice of one lemon to the bowl and a pinch of salt
- Vigorously start massaging the kale. Squeeze hard for about 3-5 minutes until the kale feels tender and doesn’t taste bitter
- Add the cranberries, carrots, cheese if using, and pumpkin seeds (plus any other toppings you want) to the bowl and toss
- In a mason jar mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and a pinch of salt and pepper. Screw the lid on and shake until mixed.
- Pour desired amount of dressing over the salad and enjoy!
Mini Pecan Pies:
- Fresh medjool Dates
- Almond Butter
- Remove the pit of the dates by cutting a small sliver down the middle of only one side of the date.
- Fill Dates with almond butter and top with a pecan
Fruit Infused Watermelon Water
- 8 cups water
- 1 sliced cucumber
- leftover pulp and juice from a watermelon or 2 cups pureed watermelon
- a few sprigs of mint
- optional- a few slices or orange, limes, or lemon
- Add all ingredients to a large pitcher and chill for a few hours