World-famous food blogging family creates holiday memories in Eagle, Idaho.
By Liza Long
It’s the American Dream: Girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love, start a family and a food blog, and become world-famous. For Natasha and Vadim Kravchuk, that dream is a reality built on hard work, traditional Ukrainian recipes, and a tremendous sense of gratitude. Natasha and Vadim, high school sweethearts who met while Natasha was attending Eagle High School, work as a team, creating the popular Natasha’sKitchen.com food blog in their spacious and immaculate kitchen in a typical suburban Eagle neighborhood.
With 5.2 million Facebook followers and nearly 750,000 YouTube subscribers, Natasha’s Idaho kitchen reaches audiences around the globe. Natasha has been named as one of Forbes Magazine’s top ten food influencers, and she has been featured in a variety of publications from Bon Appetit to Better Homes and Gardens. But her main focus is always on her fans.
“The most rewarding part of our work is the feedback that we get from our readers,” Natasha told me when we met in her eponymous kitchen in late October. “We do this for the countless moms whose picky eaters came back for seconds, readers who shared how their fiancé or in-laws were impressed with something they made, and people who have fallen in love with cooking again from all ages and walks of life.”
Natasha and Vadim, who both came to the United States as refugees from Ukraine when they were children, grew up eating traditional Ukrainian and Russian dishes. They met when Vadim was visiting family here. “It turns out that my dad and her mom knew each other as children,” Vadim told me. The couple now has two children of their own, a 10-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl.
Natasha’s Kitchen.com got its start in 2009, when Natasha was looking for traditional Ukrainian and Slavic recipes online—and found nothing. “I had to go to old cookbooks at the library,” she told me, showing me some of her hard-to-find sources. She wanted to share the delicious and budget-conscious recipes of her childhood with a wider audience—and her videos and recipes took off. Within a few years, both Natasha and Vadim were so busy creating content that they left their full-time jobs (Natasha was a nurse, and Vadim worked in retail). “Our families thought maybe we retired early—that we don’t do anything,” Natasha laughed.
The truth is that their blog is a full-time job, and they’ve even hired three assistants. Vadim is the director and videographer of their weekly videos, while Natasha plans the recipes and stars in the short videos. Natasha’s on-screen persona is friendly and accessible; she smiles often and makes every kitchen trick look easy. Once Vadim edits the videos, they are about five minutes long, with easy-to-follow instructions and amazing results. The comments section, a mix of English and Cyrillic, reflects their international appeal. The videos premiere on YouTube on Friday mornings, and Natasha and Vadim participate in a real time chat with fans in the comments during the video.
Most of their family lives here in the Treasure Valley, which means that both Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated with “the biggest food party ever.” Natasha is one of five girls, and they all bring American and traditional Ukrainian dishes to the holiday table. “The dessert buffets are just incredible,” Natasha said, “And for Thanksgiving, we have 20 side dishes.” She shared one of her personal favorites, a twist on the traditional Shuba salad recipe of her childhood, with our readers. Natasha also hosts gingerbread house and sugar cookie decorating parties for her children and their cousins throughout the holidays.
When I asked Natasha and Vadim if they had any advice for would-be Internet stars, Vadim noted that their very first videos were shot using an iPhone. “Just start,” he told me. “Don’t wait until you reach perfection.” While their current content is polished and professional, they’ve learned many of their skills along the way. “Our original videos are still posted,” he said. “We like to see how far we have come.”
“With each recipe and each video, we try to improve something,” Natasha added. “We don’t go fancy. Our recipes are family-friendly and budget-friendly.”
As we surveyed their beautiful kitchen together, it was clear that the couple is grateful for the opportunity to share their passion with others. “We feel blessed,” Natasha said, looking up at her husband with a soft smile. “The most rewarding thing is how many people and families are blessed and touched by our recipes.”
Shuba with Salmon, a twist on Herring Salad
Natasha’s tasty update on a traditional Ukrainian holiday side-dish is named after the word for “fur coat.” For step-by-step video instructions, visit www.natashaskitchen.com
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Skill Level: Easy
Cost to Make: $9
- 1pound smoked salmon
- 1small onion finely chopped
- 3 to 4medium potatoes
- 3 to 4medium beets (or use 2 cans beets which don’t require cooking)
- 4medium carrots
- 1 1/2cups real mayonnaise (2 cups if using a very large casserole)
- If you want to cook your own beets: In one pot, place beets in boiling water (enough water to cover the beets). Boil 1 hour, or until soft when pierced with a knife. The cooking time varies depending on your beets. Some will cook sooner than others, so test all of them. When cooked, remove from boiling water and let cool to room temperature. Peel the cooked beets (I use gloves for this).
- In a separate pot, boil whole potatoes and carrots 30 minutes, or until smooth when pierced with a knife. Don’t overcook. When cooked, remove from boiling water and let cool to room temperature. Peel the cooked potatoes and carrots. It’s easiest to peel carrots by putting a slit down the length of the carrot and peeling in a circle around the carrot.
- Place eggs in another pot of salted cold water and bring them to a boil. Once the water is boiling, place the lid on, turn heat off and let the pot sit on the same burner for 15 minutes. (Or you can throw them in with your potatoes and carrots and fish them out after 15 minutes. Let eggs cool to room temperature. Peel the eggs.
LAYERS OF SHUBA:
- Break or chop the salmon into quarter size pieces and place evenly in the bottom of a large 9X13 casserole dish.
- Using a cheese grater, shred the potatoes evenly over the salmon and spread onion over potatoes.
- Spread ¾ cup mayonnaise evenly over the onions.
- Using the same cheese grater, shred the beets evenly over the mayo.
- Then shred the carrots evenly over the beets.
- Spread the remaining ¾ cup mayonnaise over the carrots.
- Using the smaller holes of the cheese grater, shred the eggs evenly over the mayonnaise.
- Serve and enjoy.