The former boxer makes a lightened-up version of a Cajun classic.

By Eric Todisco
April 17, 2019 03:33 PM
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Most people know Laila Ali as the successful boxer and daughter of the world-famous Muhammed Ali, but lately she is knocking out the competition in the kitchen.

Ali, 41, released her first cookbook, Food For Life, in 2018, and she is also the host of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s Home Made Simple, where she works alongside families to cook enjoyable and healthy meals.

Along with cooking on TV, the former boxer spends much time cooking at home for her two children, Curtis, 10, and Sydney, 8, and she has a specific meal that she and her children love to indulge in.

“I would say my gumbo is one of my favorite recipes in the book,” Ali tells PEOPLE—and we happen to have the full recipe you can make yourself at home (it’s lightened-up, but still packs a ton of flavor.)

Ali also says tacos are her favorite way to get the kids to eat foods they might not normally love. “I can find ways to switch up the flavors and they don’t get tired of tacos,” she says. “They are easy to make, and I can sneak veggies into my taco meat, so I make that pretty often.”

Credit: Koman Photography

Ali’s origins in the kitchen stem back from her childhood, where she began cooking by herself when her parents were divorced and she was wanting home-cooked meals.

“My mom wasn’t really one of those moms that cooked dinner on the table,” she says. “She was an order-out kind of mom, and I like home-cooked meals, so I used to call my grandma and ask her how to make certain recipes and how to cook, and that is what inspired my cookbook.”

Ali’s cookbook has over 100 recipes, including one inspired by her father Muhammad Ali, called “The Greatest Burger of all Time.”

Laila and Muhammad Ali
| Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

“My father used to love hamburgers,” she says. “Any chance he could get to sneak away, we would go this burger joint. I know they weren’t using high quality meat and ingredients, so I decided to re-create that burger in my book and dedicate it to my father.”

In addition to preparing delicious meals at home for her children and husband Curtis Conway, Ali hosts Home Made Simple, which has now incorporated safe cleaning into her life thanks to the show’s new launch of plant-based cleaning products.

The products include hand and dish soap, multipurpose cleaner, laundry detergent and fabric softener.

Laila Ali
| Credit: Diane Bondareff/Invision for Home Made Simple/AP Images

“I am somebody who is a proud homemaker,” she said. “I am very careful, as a mom, to use products for my own home that are safe for me and my family. I was already using these types of products, so the fact that Home Made Simple is coming out with a line, just is perfect for me.”

With her passion and career in cooking, Ali’s most important focus is the healthiness of the food she makes, especially for her children.

“My lifelong passion is cooking, but of course with a healthy twist,” she says. “I love to be able to prepare the food I love, those comfort foods we love. But I try to find ways to make them more nutritious.”