Cookbook Review: Food for Life

Laila Ali's Food for Life

Passionate health advocate, cook, television personality, and four-time undefeated boxing world champion Laila Ali’s first cookbook is an idea-rich guide for happy dinners (and breakfasts and lunches) at home. Ali believes that food can be good for you and taste terrific. You’ll love her hearty, simple, satisfying real-life recipes, including:

  • Oven-“Fried” Chicken
  • Spaghetti for Breakfast
  • The Greatest of All Time Burger (her father Muhammad’s favourite)
  • Cheesy Cauliflower Pizza
  • Sweet-and-Salty Sweet Potato Salad
  • Heavenly Lemon Yogurt Cake
  • Not Your Mama’s Sweet Potato Pie

With sections on 30-Minute Meals, Make-Ahead Dishes, and Easy Kid-Pleasing Foods, Food for Life offers 100-plus recipes that will work for everyone you need to feed and every occasion.

In Laila’s kitchen, nutrition is King, but flavour is Queen! You’ll learn how to make knockout meals in ways that work with your busy and demanding life, so you can eat healthy, delicious food without feeling hungry!

Whether you’re new to cooking, busy feeding a family, or ready to eat healthier, Food for Life will be your guidebook!

Food for Life: Delicious & Healthy Comfort Food from My Table to Yours! is available at and

Stewed Chicken and Gravy

Laila Ali's Stewed Chicken and Gravy

Photography by Matt Armendariz

This recipe has a special place in my heart, as I’ve been making it since I was a teen. I can remember the first time I set out to make stewed chicken and gravy, blindly figuring it out along the way. I have since prepared this dish for friends and family countless times, and it has evolved along the way just as I have! I can’t tell you how many text messages and phone calls I’ve gotten from girlfriends asking “How do you make that stewed chicken dish?” What sets my chicken and gravy apart is that I skip the traditional gravy made with oil and flour to lighten it up and cut down on cooking time, but don’t worry, it’s so well seasoned you won’t be sacrificing a single bit of deliciousness! Serve over brown rice to sop up the flavorful gravy. Note that you can use either skin-on or skinless chicken, but skin-on will get you the best sear.

Serves 6


2 tablespoons onion powder

1 tablespoon garlic powder

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1⁄4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper



6 bone-in chicken thighs

6 bone-in chicken legs

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1⁄4 cup unrefined coconut oil

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 bunch scallions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon Super-Sassy Seasoning

2 bay leaves

2 cups water

1 tablespoon cornstarch or arrowroot powder

Sea salt

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


To make the spice rub: In a small bowl, whisk together all the spice rub ingredients.

To make the chicken and gravy: Place the chicken in a large bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Sprinkle the spice rub over the chicken and mix well to massage the spices into the chicken. (You can do this a day ahead for added flavour; cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.)

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken thighs to a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan, then add the chicken legs and cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Add the chicken legs to the plate with the thighs. Add the onion, scallions, and garlic to the pan, reduce the heat to medium, and cook until they start to colour, about 5 minutes. Add the thyme, Super-Sassy Seasoning, and bay leaves and cook for 1 minute.

Pour in 1 cup of the water and stir to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken and any accumulated juices from the plate to the pan and add the remaining 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for about 40 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally to make sure it cooks evenly and adding more water if the level comes down too low until it is cooked through.

Transfer 1⁄2 cup of the broth to a bowl, let it cool, then whisk in the cornstarch. Stir the cornstarch mixture back into the pot and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to coat a spoon. Season with salt. Transfer to serving dishes, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.



Like most home cooks, I have go-to seasonings, the ones I use most often. My custom blend incorporates my favourite spices and eliminates the need to pull out multiple spice jars every time I cook. It is salt-free, so you can use it generously and season with salt separately. This blend perks up veggie dishes, grains, soups, chicken, beef, and fish dishes, and even scrambled eggs or omelets. Whisk it into a little olive oil, season with salt and fresh lemon juice, and it becomes a marinade or salad dressing. Makes a scant 1⁄2 cup.

2 tablespoons onion powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons celery seeds

2 teaspoons dried ground thyme

2 teaspoons dried ground parsley

1 teaspoon dried ground marjoram

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Transfer to a jar, cover, and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months. Stir before using.


Recipe credit: From Food for Life by Laila Ali. Copyright © 2018 by the author and reprinted by permission of St Martin’s Press.  

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