This is one of my favorite times of the year! The pretty garlands and twinkly lights. The sparkly dresses and over-the-top parties. Expertly wrapped gifts and memorable dinners with great conversation. I just adore the holidays. However, it’s one of the most hectic times! Between tying up loose ends on a project and tying up the bright bows on our gifts, there seems to be little time left for party planning.

Since I love hosting family and friends, I prioritize ease during holiday parties. I keep the menu simple and traditional – because what’s memorable about these moments is what you look forward to. I love sharing the same, unforgettable dish year after year! But that’s where I need a little help. Striking the balance between simple and traditional is such a challenge when the holidays are known for massive turkeys that take half a day to fully roast and pies that must be baked the previous day just to save time for other dishes.

I invited Kelli Bunch of KB Table to share her go-to recipes for a sophisticated soiree I could pull together in a snap. Kelli and I like to get together a few times throughout the year to share our ideas for the perfect party. When you love to entertain like I do, you’re always looking for new ways to wow your guests. Because let’s be honest, it takes a fair amount of planning to get everything just perfect. It takes knowing what to do on your own and what you can outsource. It also takes having the right tools! 

This year, I thought it would be fun to highlight my kitchen, which I designed around a full Monogram Appliances package. It’s no secret that I have a love for all things Monogram, and I’ve not really shared my kitchen before – that changes today. I selected certain appliances specifically for their time-saving qualities, which takes the stress out of hosting. 

Kelli Bunch of KB Table pours drinks at the home of Laura Umansky

Kelli Bunch pours one of her signature holiday cocktails – Apple Cider Sangria

Whenever I host, holidays or otherwise, I try to bring in something my guests haven’t seen before. At one of my holiday parties last year, the place cards were ripe pears with silver calligraphy. Such a special touch! I always rely on timeless classics, but find something a little out of the ordinary to truly surprise my guests. This is one of those fabulous times when you can be a little impractical and even frivolous with your decor.

I love a handsome garland, whether draped across a console to greet your guests, or as the table’s centerpiece. Fresh florals bring an impermanent beauty that I find so celebratory this season. While it’s still fairly green here in the Houston winter, you don’t see as many fresh flowers outdoors. Finding them inside is such a welcome surprise! Magnolias are hearty and wintry, as well as peonies and roses in peach-colored or burgundy hues. 

After that, it’s the hard part: bites and beverages. At my last holiday party, my culinary-gifted friends offered to prepare a perfect 3-course meal for all of us, as long as I hosted. My girls loved working with them in the kitchen. And our shared meal was made much more special with all of us having part in it. 

For my next holiday party, I want to offer a variety of small bites, reminiscent of old favorites. Kelli shared with me a simple menu of balance and ease. An incredibly luxe caviar bar is perfect for the discerning guest and reminds us of an exclusive, up-til-the-wee-hours winter bash. Moroccan meatballs evoke homemade meatloaf in the best way, with a depth of spice. Pimento cheese is a Southern staple. Buttery toasts with decadent mounds of creme fraiche and shallot pair with seasonally inspired cocktails in a comforting way. And best of all? I watched as Kelli pulled together this impressive menu in a completely reasonable amount of time.

Blackberry Coulis and sage mojitos crafted by Kelli Bunch of KB Table

Elevated Entertaining with Monogram Appliances

All of that speed brings me to my Monogram Appliances. When I renovated my home on North Boulevard, the kitchen was one of the first things we addressed. It was not conducive to the easy entertaining I’m used to. The flow was awkward and tight. It really needed to be brought into the modern and made functional for my active family. I selected our appliance package first, all Monogram, and built the new space around the appliances.

From the oven to the wine refrigerator, I have Monogram Appliances everywhere in my home. I even have a smaller set of Monogram Appliances in my cabana for pool parties. I love how sleek and stylish they are, but I like even more how hi-tech they are. More on that in a bit…

Range and Oven

I love the amazing flexibility of the Monogram range. Each burner can go from simmer to power boil in an instant. As Kelli was prepping her mise en place, she placed a few items into a saucepan and set it to boil. The lovely aroma of orange peel, clove, cinnamon, and star anise swirled with the deep sweetness of cabernet. Immediately, my home was intoxicatingly full of the scent of mulled wine. What a wonderful way to greet guests! But not only that, Kelli began to simmer apple cider, and turned the oven up for baked brie.

Baked brie never fails to disappoint hungry guests. Kelli selected an enormous round and sliced a circle around the top to let the gooey insides breathe as they baked. We prepared candied pecans, sliced figs, and tore apart delicate pieces of fresh thyme and rosemary for garnish. Ripe blackberries swimming in a sea of honey provide the perfect amount of tartness.

Laura U Interrior Design | Holiday entertaining with a baked brie

 Baked brie is a showstopping addition to your holiday cocktail party menu

Laura Umansky using Monogram Appliances to prep for her holiday party

My butler”s pantry, with custom cabinets from Bentwood, has a Monogram wine storage unit

Laura Umansky at home using her Monogram Appliance range and oven

Moving into my kitchen, I have a six-burner range, perfect for making mulled wine!

 Kelli Bunch, caterer extraordinaire and founder of KB Table, created the menu.

Laura U Interior Design | Holiday Entertaining with Monogram Appliances

Moroccan meatballs with pomegranate arils and a hand-embroidered napkin for that special touch!

Advantium Oven

The Advantium Oven is five ovens in one. You can prep side dishes up to 8 times faster. Reheating leftovers is a breeze. You can even proof the dough for cannot-have-just-one cinnamon rolls. Now, that’s what I call having an efficient kitchen! My husband Michael is the best spokesperson for the oven because he uses it daily. We agree roasting veggies in the Advantium is the best meal prep. The “mixed veg” option under the “sides” menu gives you perfect roasted veggies in just 12 minutes. Considering that this once took me upwards of 40 minutes for root vegetables, this is a wonderfully innovative appliance.  

Michael likes his veggies extra crispy. With the Advantium, you can even change the crisp levels. All your recipes come out to your version of perfection. The oven is one of Michael’s favorite things in our home. We eat a lot of vegetables, but we don’t have a ton of time during the week to cook a gourmet meal. Keeping the variety alive can be difficult. With the Advantium, all we have to do is slice some veggies and place them on a pan with salt, pepper, and olive oil. In less than 15 minutes, you have a fabulous side dish that tastes amazing. Even our girls love it!

For my party prep, Kelli and I baked Moroccan meatballs in the Advantium with ease. The meatballs themselves are really simple to pull together – a spicy mix of paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and garlic mixes well with cilantro and lamb. We don’t eat lamb often, but when we do I always feel like it’s when we’re celebrating something. In my mind, lamb means a happy occasion! And even happier still, these meatballs were ready in a flash, with a salty crust.

Kelli Bunch from KB Table cooks up a baked brie and baked goodies

Kelli Bunch, caterer extraordinaire and founder of KB Table, created the menu.

Laura Umansky at home with Monogram Appliances - Advantium Oven

From weeknight meals to holiday sides, the Advantium oven makes meal prep so simple

Column Refrigerator

The arrival of the holidays means stocking your fridge with extra ingredients. But no one has a perfectly staged fridge. In a full fridge, it can be hard to see what you have. That’s why the lighting in my column refrigerator is one of my favorite features! The lighting is incorporated into the shelves. You can stuff your fridge full of food and still see everything inside.

Another great feature is the temperature-controlled drawers. The drawers have pre-programmed settings for beverages, meat, and deli. All I do is program the drawer and then voila! When I pull out the caviar, it’s the perfect temperature and ready to serve.

My column refrigerator can fit everything I need for the perfect party. Things can get forgotten during the holidays, so I like to plan ahead. You never know if the grocery store will run out of the essential items you need. I buy everything I need as early as I can. We are always fully stocked at the Umansky household and this massive refrigerator is a huge help.

Laura Umansky of Laura U Interior Design using Monogram Appliances wine reserve unit

White wines and champagne are always kept at the perfect temperature

Wine Reserve

Serving wine at the correct temperature is a must when entertaining during the holidays. With the Monogram wine refrigeration unit in my butler’s pantry, I don’t have to remember to chill the wine ahead of time. I can use the digital temperature control to set the unit to a precise temperature. It keeps white wines and champagne at the perfect temperature!

Another reason I love this wine unit is because of the shelves. They fully extend which makes it easy for me to see everything I have. It holds up to 57 bottles, so I never have to worry about running out of wine during the party!

How to Host the Holidays at Home | Elegant tablescape for a holiday cocktail party

Wow – what a beautiful tablescape

Hosting the Holidays at Home

Your kitchen appliances play a huge role in hosting the holidays at home. My Monogram Appliances make holiday entertaining easier and faster. Thanks to reduced cooking times and the ability to cook multiple dishes at a time, I’m more efficient in the kitchen. I spend less time cooking and more time making memories with my friends and family. And nothing makes me happier than spending quality time with the people I love!

Baked brie garnished with figs, grapes,  and candied walnuts - from Kelli Bunch at KB Table

Effortless Holiday Menu

Signature Cocktails

Apple Cider Sangria Spritzers

Fresh cranberry juice, cider, sparkling water, and honey

Blackberry Coulis and Sage Mojito

Garnished with fresh sage and dehydrated lime slices

Hors d’oeuvres

Baked Brie

Topped with fresh rosemary and red grapes

Pimento Cheese Ball

Moroccan Meatballs

Caviar and Salmon Gravlax Crostini

Mini Blinis and Melba toasts served with grilled lemon and creme fraiche and shallot spread

Traditional Italian Christmas Cookie Display