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Popeye’s Powerful Pesto: Packed with Iron, Vitamins, and Nutrients

One of my weekend rituals is to make this nutrient-packed pesto so I can have it in my fridge, ready when I need it throughout the week.

The idea came to me after Maddie’s six month well visit. The nurse suggested adding iron-fortified rice cereal to her diet because (she said) breastfed babies do not absorb sufficient iron from breastmilk. What? I thought breastmilk had everything babies needed! I did my research, and there are many conflicting studies on whether or not that is true. There is no question, however, that rice cereal is an outdated, nutritionally-void, unnecessary food for babies.

So, as I’m sure you guessed, we skipped the rice cereal. Why feed her something processed when, instead, she can eat clean, quality, whole foods that are rich in iron, vitamins, minerals, and other good stuff? There are so many high-iron options: green smoothies, leafy greens, broccoli, red meat, and lentils are a few of my go-to’s.

To really bump up the iron and nutrition in her diet, I have been incorporating what we affectionately call Popeye’s Powerful Pesto into many of the dishes I cook. I serve it on pasta, add it to sauces and meat mixtures (meatballs, shepherd’s pie, Bolognese, etc.), and anything else where it seems to make sense. You can even serve it as a dip with crackers or veggies. You really only need two things to make it: spinach and water. I typically add a few extra ingredients to make it more flavorful and nutritious. Here are just a few health benefits of each:

Popeye's Powerful Pesto

  • Spinach: Excellent source of iron, vitamins, magnesium, folate, manganese, and calcium. Also contains anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory oxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Avocado: Rich in healthy fats, which are essential for brain development in growing children. Also rich in protein, fiber, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, and zinc.
  • Olive oil: Also great for brain development in growing children. Contains healthy, monounsaturated fat, vitamins, and natural antioxidants.
  • Walnuts: Contain omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • Garlic: Excellent for heart health, boosts immune system, natural antibiotic, and rich in antioxidants.
  • Lemon: Balances pH, eliminates toxins from the body, and boosts immunity.
  • Honey (only use if your baby is 1 or older): Contains antibacterial and antifungal properties, promotes strong immune system, and boosts energy.

Maddie has been eating this pesto, I’d say, at least twice a week since she was 6.5 months old. I rely strictly on diet and breastmilk to meet her nutrition needs. At her one year well visit, our pediatrician said her weight, height, and head measurements were textbook perfect and to continue what we are doing. Popeye’s Powerful Pesto:

  • 6 ounces fresh spinach
  • 2 avocados
  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • Honey (optional): now that Maddie is one year old, I add about a tablespoon of honey. If you’re feeding this to a child under 1, omit the honey because of the risk of infant botulism.
  • Salt and pepper (optional): I limit salt intake in Maddie’s foods, as babies’ kidneys do not process salt efficiently. Since I add the pesto to meals I cook, which likely do contain a little salt, I don’t add any to this pesto.

Directions: This couldn’t be any easier. Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. I store it in a mason jar, and keep it in the fridge to use in meals throughout the week. Please note: As you will see in the picture, I used a Vitamix to blend the pesto. My hubby got it for me as a birthday present last weekend. I think he’s just as excited as I am, if for no other reason than to shut me up… I have been bugging him politely asking for one for a very long time! Anyway, any blender or food processor will work. I used the same old food processor for many years! The handles are broken, so I had to rig it every time I turned it on, or else we’d have a catastrophe in the kitchen… But it worked.

Put all the ingredients in a blender.
Put all the ingredients in a blender.
Blend until smooth.
Blend until smooth.
Store in a mason jar to use throughout the week.
Store in a mason jar to use throughout the week.

I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe. If you decide to try it, please let me know how it goes! Stay tuned for recipes made with Popeye’s Powerful Pesto, like Grilled Summer Veggie Pesto Pasta Salad… Now, that’s a delicious mouthful!!! Grilled Summer Vegetable Pesto Pasta Salad

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