Quinoa (prounounced keen-wa) was a staple food for the South American Indians living in the high altitudes of the Andes Mountains. It was immensely popular because it was one of few crops that could survive in such high altitudes (10,000 - 20,000 feet above sea level). It could withstand frost, intense sun and the often dry conditions that characterized the Andean climate. It was also recognized for its superior nutritional qualities. For these reasons, it was dubbed "mother of all grains" by the Incas, so much so that it came to have spiritual significance for them. Many traditions and ceremonies surrounded the cultivation, harvest and consumption of quinoa. Quinoa is a "pseudo-grain"-actually a gluten-free seed, but used in cooking like a whole grain. This nutrient-rich grain is a wonderful source of complete protein, providing all of the essential amino acids. It is also a good source of dietary fiber. Naturally gluten free, this powerful little grain is a great addition to any diet, but is an ideal solution for those following a gluten free, vegan or vegetarian diet that are looking to increase their protein and fiber. Quinoa is delicious on its own and the earthy flavor of quinoa makes it ideal for pilafs, soups and salads. Unlike many whole grains, quinoa takes very little time to prepare and can be substituted anywhere whole grains are used. It is a nutritious alternative to couscous and white rice in most recipes. Use it for a hot breakfast cereal or add uncooked quinoa to breads for a delightful crunch.