I would like an easy to prepare menu that can accommodate small children, and be almost all done ahead,as we have an event to attend before our family comes. I was thinking of using a slow cooker to cook some beef, and serving buttered noodles, etc.
beef bourguignon would be my suggestion. Theres a hunter style chicken dish on this site that's also a good make ahead. you could serve the latter with a rice dish. And if you want a dessert, an apple crisp is easy to make ahead.
Could make a Bolognese always seems to taste better cooked a day ahead and maybe a broccoli slaw salad?
I used to make a beef stew made with beer for group dinners and served w buttered noodles, green salad (wash the greens and make the vinaigrette ahead). To be frank, I would purchase a dessert, say ice cream and cookies and serve coffee or tea with dessert. Sparkling cider for the kids and hard sparkling cider for the adults, served in champagne glasses to add extra sparkle to the occasion. Poppers at each place (those tube things that open up and have little gifts inside are super fun for kids and u can get ones with nice stuff inside for adults). :)) holidays are my favorite season for festivities!!!!
Lasagna is always good for small children... you can explain it as "very big noodles." Or do a ziti or penne version so that the forms are recognizable to them.
We usually do a crockpot lasagna, garlic bread & a big Caesar salad! Easy! And maybe a trifle ahead of time for dessert. Yum.