In her new cookbook "Food For Life," she writes, "nutrition is king, but flavor is queen!"
Ali is the eighth of the late Muhammad Ali's nine children, but she has long been determined to make her own way in the world. She entered a book signing in Tribeca to cheers -- earning her own applause -- and the daughter of the guy who called himself "The Greatest" has made her peace with his vast legacy.
"Even though I am in his shadow, I feel like we're walking side by side," she said.
She went undefeated in the ring when she took up the sport, much to her father's dismay.
"My father would rather me not box," she said. "He tried to talk me out of it."
She pushed on, and he did come to her fights.
"At all times, I knew he'd rather me quit," she said.
She retired from the ring in 2007.
She also said her father's absence during her childhood left her feeling isolated.
"He was traveling the world," she said. "And unfortunately, you do have to suffer a little bit."
As a teenager, a series of mistakes put Laila behind bars.
"I had a lot to get out of my system because of my childhood," she said. "And along the way, cooking had become really therapeutic for me because it was something I could depend on."
And that is how, so many years later, she found herself promoting her new cookbook designed for busy parents like herself.
"What I've learned to do with my children is find the foods that they like and put a twist on them," she said. "So if they like chicken nuggets, I'm going to make them a healthier chicken nugget."
"Food For Life" is dedicated to her late father, from a hard-won position of strength.
"I do what I want to do, the way I want to do it, and the sky is the limit," she said. "And I'm ready to put in the hard work that it takes. I don't ever expect anything to be handed to me."
She says the challenges she faced as a young woman have made her a better mother, and to give her kids structure, she prepares dinner and at 6 p.m. sharp. Then she, her husband Curtis, their son Curtis Jr., and their daughter Sydney sit down together to eat as a family.
Laila Ali's Recipe for The Greatest of All Time Burger
--1 1/2 pounds ground beef
--1 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
--1 teaspoon onion powder
--1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
--Freshly ground black pepper
--4 good hamburger buns, such as Ezekiel brand, split and toasted
--Toppings: mustard, onion rounds, and cheese slices
--If you have the time, take the beef out of the refrigerator 10 to 20 minutes before you are ready to cook it.
--Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, or preheat a grill to high.
--Place the beef in a large bowl, add the Worcestershire sauce and onion powder, and mix with your hands until the ingredients are just combined (do not compact the meat or it may result in a dense burger).
--Lightly dampen your hands. Divide the beef into 4 equal portions. Gently form each into a loose ball, then pat the balls into 3/4-inch-thick patties. Press down in the center of each patty with your thumb to make a 1/4-inch-deep or so indentation (this keeps your burgers from puffing up in the center when they cook).
--Season the patties well on both sides with the salt and pepper to taste.
--Place on the pan or grill indented-side up and cook on each side for about 3 minutes for rare, 3 1/2 minutes for medium-rare, 4 minutes for medium, and 5 minutes for well-done.
--Transfer to a plate and let sit for about 5 minutes for the burgers to finish cooking and so the juices can redistribute throughout the patties, then put the burgers on buns and add your choice of toppings.