In front are Gracie and Makenzye Tucker. In back are Tamika, Marion, Aaralyn and Aaron Tucker.
In front are Gracie and Makenzye Tucker. In back are Tamika, Marion, Aaralyn and Aaron Tucker.
One has only to look at the Nativity scenes in the home of Marion and Aaron Tucker to find the true meaning of Christmas.

One, a Willow Tree, is Marion's favorite, so much so that she keeps it out all year long! Another favorite is the one she got while on a mission trip to Africa.

There's even a plastic Nativity scene in the girls' bedroom.

Christmas is a special time for this family which includes four active girls: Tamika, 18; Gracie, 8; Makenzye, 6; and Aaralyn, 2.

A Brandon native, Marion graduated from Northwest Rankin High School and Mississippi College where she earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology.

A Carthage native, Aaron graduated from Leake Academy and Mississippi College, earning a bachelor of science in Christian studies and a minor in communications.

"We dated through college starting in our freshman year," Marion said. "We got married before our senior year and lived in student housing for married couples."

The couple has worked in Christian ministries throughout their marriage.

After graduation, they moved to Clinton where Aaron managed a Chick-fil-A. They both worked at a small church in Jackson, she in children's ministry and he in youth ministry.

The couple later lived in Houma, La., and Tallulah La., before coming to Philadelphia.

Aaron is minister of students at their church, First Baptist.

Marion is an assistant kindergarten teacher at Philadelphia Elementary School and is working on her teacher licensure.

She hopes to teach next year.

While she has held several jobs, Marion has always come back to her desire to teach. She hopes to soon earn a master's degree in psychometry.

I would like to test special education and gifted students, among others, she said.

Marion is also actively involved in Parents for Public Schools.

When it comes to hobbies, she and Aaron ensure that the girls come first.

"I'm really a chauffeur to dance, Upward basketball and piano!" she said. "We stay pretty busy."

Aaron likes to golf, though his time is limited. He also likes to hunt.

While the kids are her hobby, Marion likes to cook. She can often be found searching online for new recipes.

"The kids are not always fans of being the guinea pigs," she said.

Because the youngest daughter has allergies, cooking for her busy family is not always an easy task for Marion.

"The youngest daughter has sweets, soy and dairy allergies," she said. "We have to be real careful with her."

Makenzye is allergic to eggs.

Casseroles are a family favorite. They also like to grill outdoors and try to sway away from fried foods.

"I love making sweets, especially this time of the year," Marion said.

The Tuckers are looking forward to spending time with their families over the holidays.

Marion's dad collects Christmas Post Offices so they are always searching for that special one to put under his trees.

"He works for the Postal Service," she said.

Christmas morning will find the Tuckers at their home on Terri Drive enjoying their gifts from Santa.

Marion has shared several of her recipes including one for potato soup, a family favorite.



GRANNY'S POTATO SOUP

4 cup peeled, diced potatoes

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

pinch of seasoning salt

bay leaves

4 cups water

2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons butter

handful of flour or cornstarch

1/4 cup of minced parsley

Saute onions in olive oil until transparent.

Cook all veggies, salt, 1 clove of Garlic and Bay leaf in water until tender. Add cream and butter with the other clove of garlic. Add flour to thicken, and top with parsley.

* Can be topped with bacon bits and cheese.



MACARONI AND CHEESE

2 cups large elbow macaroni, uncooked

2 cups low fat milk

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

2 teaspoons salt

dash of nutmeg

1 cup grated cheese, any one or combination of your choice

black pepper to taste

*additional toppings bacon bits, bread crumbs, chopped parsley, diced tomatoes

Place raw macaroni in colander and quickly rinse. In medium, sauce pan add milk, macaroni, salt, butter, mustard powder and nutmeg. On medium heat, slowly bring mixture to a simmer, stirring macaroni frequently.

Once mixture come to a simmer, immediately turn down heat to low. Continue stirring the mixture frequently, and cook for 15-20 minutes until macaroni is fully cooked. Stir in grated cheese, and turn heat off, place lid on pan and cover for 5 minutes. Add additional toppings before serving.



CHOCOLATE CHIP ANGEL FOOD CAKE

3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips, coarsely chopped

1 cup cake flour

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

13 large egg whites

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pulse the chocolate in a food processor until finely ground. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour and 3/4 cup of sugar until combined.

Whisk together egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on low sped until frothy, about 1 minute.

Increase speed to medium and beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes.

Stir the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, then beat egg whites at medium-high speed until fluffy and just stiff.

Stir 1/3 of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it in with a spatula until just blended.

Add the vanilla and fold in the remaining flour in two batches. Fold in the ground chocolate and scrape the batter into a 10-inch tube pan. Bake until inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Invert pan, and let cool completely, at leaf 1 hour.



CORN CASSEROLE

16-ounce can whole kernel corn

15-ounce can cream corn

8-ounce package Jiffy corn muffin mix

1 cup sour cream

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together corn, jiffy, sour cream and butter. Stir in cheese. Pour into a 9x9 greased pan. Bake for 55 minutes.



HOMESTYLE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1 bag of medium egg noodles

1 boiled chicken, shredded

1 can sliced carrots, strained

water

chicken bullion cubes

parsley flakes

In a large soup pot, saute onions in olive oil until translucent.

Fill pot 2/3 full with water and add 3 to 4 bouillon cubes. Bring to a rolling boil and add noodles. Boil until noodles are tender.

Add carrots and chicken, and reduce to low. Simmer 10 minutes. Sprinkle parsley flakes on top and serve



CHICKEN 'N' RICE

1 box Uncle Ben's long grain wild rice (original recipe)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of celery soup

1 can water

4 chicken breasts

In a 9x13 greased pan, mix rice, soups and water.

* an additional can of water can be added for moister rice

Arrange chicken on top of rice mixture. Cover and seal with foil Bake at 350 degrees for 21/2 hours.



PECAN PIE BREAD

PUDDING

12 cups bite size bread pieces

6 large eggs

21/2 cups light corn syrup

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups chopped pecans

In a greased 9x9 baking dish, place all of the bread pieces into the dish.

Pour melted butter over bread. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt Stir in pecans.

Pour evenly over the bread pieces. Make sure all bread pieces are coated in mixture.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm.



TWICE BAKED POTATO CASSEROLE

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes, baked

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 pound sliced bacon, cooked and crumbled

3 cups (24 ounces) sour cream

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut baked potatoes into 1 inch cubes. place 1/2 in a greased 13x19 inch baking dish. Sprinkle with 1/2 salt, pepper and bacon. Top with 1/2 sour cream an cheese. Repeat layers. Bake uncovered, 20-25 minutes.