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Published: Friday, May 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Want to eat healthfully? Try Skagit Co-op deli

My husband and I have been lighting up our diets lately by juicing, eating near vegan, raw food and eliminating refined starches. It has been great while we are at home, but what about eating out?
Well, I found the perfect solution while we were in the Skagit Valley for the Tulip Festival street fair: The Skagit Valley Co-op.
(Note: The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival ended April 30.)
Their deli is in the back of the store. When you get past all the beautiful produce and tantalizing artisan candies, you'll find a huge cold case full of freshly made salads, sandwiches, and other delicious-looking items.
Opposite the cold case is the serve-yourself hot bar where there are many entrees and side dishes and a good selection of soups.
Little tags tell you the ingredients and whether the dish is vegan, gluten free, dairy free or raw.
Farther down from the cold case is a freezer case with organic house-made ice cream.
A drink bar makes fresh juices, smoothies and coffee drinks. The juices are made from organic fruits and veggies made to order.
Note: These juices are not pasteurized. I personally don't have a problem with that because I am confident they wash all their produce thoroughly before it goes in the juicer.
Fresh produce also goes in their smoothies. Their free trade coffee is roasted in-house.
There is seating near the deli cases but I recommend heading upstairs to the loft dining area where you can eat in relative quiet.
On the day we visited, the deli was hopping and we thought it was going to be a wait to get our food, but I was incorrect. The deli had loads of people behind the counter to keep the lines moving.
For my lunch, I grabbed a nice hearty portion of the Moroccan lentil stew, with a side of Thai coleslaw. I picked a smoothie called "Popeye's Secret Blend" with a scoop of spirulina added to it for all of us to share.
My husband opted for a tofu and black bean enchilada and a side of rice and beans, and my picky son had a scoop of rice and beans.
My stew consisted of lentils, quinoa, garbanzo beans, tomatoes, dried apricots, carrots, bell, peppers and loads of spices. It had a wonderful hearty flavor with a hint of sweetness from the apricots. Honestly, if I could make something like this at home I would be vegan forever.
Though my coleslaw was inspired by another cuisine it complemented my stew nicely. It was fresh, a little spicy and creamy with the addition of coconut milk.
The smoothie was a nice surprise. The combo of spinach, banana, strawberries and apple juice blended well, not too sweet and with no green taste whatsoever. Even my son liked it.
My husband's tofu enchilada looked so tasty. It was made with a whole wheat tortilla, black beans, ground up firm tofu, mixed peppers, green chilies with enchilada sauce and cheese on top. I tasted the filling and could not tell that it had tofu in it.
The portion was big enough for lunch and he didn't need the rice and beans. They were tasty for my husband but they were too highly flavored for my son. Oh, well; he ate them anyway just so he could get a ice cream cone.
Overall our meal was fantastic and I would come back here for lunch because my family can see and pick what they want to eat and everything is under $10 per pound for food items. The smoothies and juices are well priced at $4 for a 16-ounce drink. I feel confident the food is healthy and anything my family picks I can feel good about them eating.
The Skagit Valley Co-op is such a wonderful destination. Whether you're shopping for groceries, personal care products, gifts or you just want a great meal, the co-op has it all. And everything you can buy there is top notch quality.
As a side note: The Sno-Isle co-op in Everett has a wonderful deli and juice bar also and a good place for lunch as well. You don't have to be a member to shop at any of the co-ops, but if you want to support them and receive discounts on your shopping, visit either one of their websites for details.
Skagit Valley Co-op
202 S First St., Mount Vernon; 360-336-9777; ">www.skagitfoodcoop.com.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday.
Speciality: Organic food.
Vegetarian options: Many, as well as vegan choices.
Sno-Isle Co-Op
2804 Grand Ave., Everett; 425-259-3798; www.snoislefoods.coop
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Story tags » Dining

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