Fast food

(In 20 minutes flat) you can feed your family, satisfy your taste buds and meet your nutritional needs.

When hunger strikes, you may be tempted to run out to the nearest burger joint. Not so fast. Now more than ever, it’s important to eat healthful meals. Your little one is counting on it.

But when you’re busy raising a family and perhaps working as well, it isn’t always easy to find the time to cook. What you need are quick, well-balanced meals tailored to meet your nutritional needs during pregnancy. Using a minimum of time and pots, we’ve created six simple dishes that are loaded with all the nutrients necessary for a healthy pregnancy.

“The steamed salmon and seafood stew dishes are rich in protein, B vitamins, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid — perfect for a pregnant woman,” says Philadelphia nutritionist Jayne Davies, M.N.S., R.D. “The linguini with broccoli and cherry tomatoes dish is high in calcium, B vitamins and C, and the broiled pork chop and chicken dishes are loaded with protein, folic acid, iron and vitamin A.”

Not only are these recipes packed with nutrients, but they also will feed a hungry group of four in record time: 20 minutes. The key is to use fewer and fresher ingredients; thinly cut meats, poultry and fish; and quick-cooking techniques, such as grilling, broiling, steaming and blanching. (For other fast-cooking tips, see “Ready, Set, Cook”)

Even though these recipes are light on fat, they’re no less tasty. In fact, they’re so mouthwatering that you’ll forget all about that Big Mac or Seven-Layer Burrito, if you haven’t already.

Linguini With Broccoli and Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4

3 quarts water

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 pound bite-size broccoli florets

12 ounces fresh linguini

1 clove garlic, crushed and coarsely chopped

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In a large pot, boil water over high heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon olive oil and broccoli. Cook no more than 3 minutes. Add linguini and cook until tender, no longer than 2 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of water; set florets and pasta aside.

In a skillet, warm remaining olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and reserved water. Reduce heat to low, and stir in florets, pasta and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Turn to coat well, and heat about 1 minute. Transfer to a serving bowl and toss with parsley and black pepper. Top with Parmesan cheese and serve.

Nutritional information per serving (11/4 cups): 346 calories, 21 percent fat (8 grams), 63 percent carbohydrate, 16 percent protein, 127 milligrams calcium, 97 micrograms folic acid, 4.5 milligrams iron.

Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches

Serves 4

1 loaf whole-wheat or sourdough bread, cut into 8 1/2-inch slices

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 small round eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds

3 medium summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices

2 red bell peppers, seeded, stemmed and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-wide slices

1 bunch green onions, trimmed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to broil. Lightly toast bread slices, and rub with garlic clove; set aside.

Line a 10-by-16-inch pan with aluminum foil. Spread vegetables in a single layer on pan and fold up edges of foil. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper, and place in oven. Broil until vegetables just begin to char, about 8 minutes. Turn and broil on other side another 8–10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Place a slice of bread on each of 4 plates and top with a generous portion of vegetables. Lay 2 slices of cheese over vegetables and top with remaining bread. If you prefer melted cheese, return to oven 2 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving (1 sandwich): 375 calories, 29 percent fat (12 grams), 54 percent carbohydrate, 17 percent protein, 341 milligrams calcium, 87 micrograms folic acid, 4 milligrams iron.

Steamed Salmon With Baby Spinach

Serves 4

4 4-ounce fresh salmon fillets

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

2 lemons (1 thinly sliced and 1 cut into 6 wedges)

3/4 pound baby spinach, pre-washed

Fill the bottom of a large steamer with about 3 inches of water. Or use a large pasta pot with a steamer rack, being sure to leave 2–4 inches of space between water and rack. Bring water to a boil over high heat.

Season salmon fillets with half the pepper and half the salt. Place fillets, skin side down, on steamer rack, top each with a slice of lemon, and cover. Cook until fillets are opaque and pale pink, about 8–10 minutes. Remove skin from fillets, pile spinach on top and sprinkle with remaining salt and pepper. Cover and continue to cook until spinach is slightly wilted, about 3–4 minutes.

Turn off heat, remove fillets and divide among 4 plates. Squeeze 2 lemon wedges over spinach. Garnish with remaining lemon wedges.

Nutritional information per serving (1 fillet): 195 calories, 30 percent fat (6.5 grams), 18 percent carbohydrate, 52 percent protein, 165 milligrams calcium, 191 micrograms folic acid, 4 milligrams iron.

Broiled Chicken Breasts With Dried Herbs and Carrots

Serves 4

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise

1 teaspoon rosemary, dried and crushed

1 tablespoon thyme, dried

1 tablespoon sage, dried

4 carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to broil. With a sharp knife, remove the “flaps” (“tenders”) from the underside of each breast, creating 6 pieces. Cut 2–3 small slits in top of each; insert a sliver of garlic into each slit, and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix rosemary, thyme and sage, then spread mixture onto a dinner plate. Roll and press each breast into herb mixture.

Line a 10-by-12-inch pan with aluminum foil and place chicken breasts on it, keeping them close together and alternating narrow ends. Place carrots in a single layer around chicken and fold up edges of foil, about 1 inch. Drizzle carrots with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place pan in oven and cook 7 minutes. Turn chicken over, and cook another 5–7 minutes. Using the tip of a sharp knife, pierce chicken at its thickest point. If juices run clear, the chicken is done; if juices are pink, cook another 3–4 minutes.

Nutritional information per serving (1/4 of recipe): 322 calories, 18 percent fat (6.5 grams), 29 percent carbohydrate, 53 percent protein, 115 milligrams calcium, 35 micrograms folic acid, 4 milligrams iron.

Broiled Pork Chops With Apple Slices and Spicy Garbanzo Beans

Serves 4

4 1/2-inch-thick pork loin chops

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 Gala apple, cored and thinly sliced

1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 orange

Preheat oven to broil. Rub pork chops with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Line a 10-by-12-inch pan with foil, place pork chops on it; fold up edges of foil, and set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet, warm oil over high heat until it starts to smoke. Add a single layer of apple slices and cook until brown, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook another 2 minutes. Add garbanzo beans, cayenne pepper, and remaining salt and pepper. Squeeze juice from orange over mixture. Stir to coat well and cook until beans begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cover.

Broil pork chops 5 minutes on each side. Serve with apple slices and bean mixture.

Nutritional information per serving (1 pork chop plus 1/3 cup apple-bean mixture): 370 calories, 27 percent fat (11 grams), 41 percent carbohydrate, 32 percent protein, 65 milligrams calcium, 77 micrograms folic acid, 2.5 milligrams iron.

Seafood Stew With Basmati Rice

Serves 4

2 cups water

1 cup Basmati rice

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon thyme, dried

1 teaspoon sage, dried

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 32-ounce can tomatoes, crushed

2 cups vegetable stock (preferably low-sodium)

1/3 pound fresh red snapper or ling cod, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/4 pound bay scallops

1/2 pound mussels or Manila clams

In a saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, bring water to a boil over high heat. Stir in rice, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 20 minutes.

In a large pot, warm olive oil over medium heat. Stir in onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, bay leaves, thyme, sage, salt and pepper, and cook another minute to release flavor. Stir in tomatoes and vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer about 7 minutes. Increase heat slightly, stir in fish and cook about 1 minute. Stir in scallops and mussels or clams. Cover and cook until shellfish open, about 3 minutes.

Spoon about 1/2 cup of rice into 4 bowls and ladle stew over rice.

Nutritional information per serving (1 3/4 cups): 420 calories, 9 percent fat (4 grams), 63 percent carbohydrate, 28 percent protein, 130 milligrams calcium, 36 micrograms folic acid, 4 milligrams iron.

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