Wrap your hands around a bowl of one of these hearty soups

Almost nothing tastes better on a cold, gray day than a piping bowl of soup. And almost nothing more easily feeds a crowd.

So we asked readers to send us their favorite soup and stew recipes -- the ones they simmer on the stove when there's a chill in the air, or when they find themselves with a house full of guests.

Out of about 100 submissions, these eight soups were the ones that made us want to lick the bowls. There's a little something for everyone, from a creamy squash crab soup for seafood lovers to a tomato-basil soup for vegans.

One was inspired by a restaurant in Switzerland; another, from an Oklahoma resident who misses Tex-Mex. One's a version of an authentic Chinese soup.

Think you'll have leftover beer from your Super Bowl party? Pour it into some Riverside pork stew. That random can of pumpkin or coconut milk in the pantry? Perfect for the spicy pumpkin soup recipe. Love French onion soup with all that melted cheese on top? Try this cabbage version.

Many of the recipe creators offer tips and suggestions for variations on their soups.

Healthy turkey sausage and kale soup

Marsha Levy Kravetz says, "This soup was adapted from a wonderful sausage and kale soup made for me in Switzerland more than 30 years ago. The taste is a wonderful blend of the sausage, veggies and kale, very hearty, healthy and warms your soul, as well."

Makes 8-10 servings

1 14-ounce package smoked turkey sausage (preferred: Butterball), halved lengthwise, then cut into small slices

1 large onion, chopped

1/4 cup minced/chopped garlic

4 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons oregano (either dried or fresh)

1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence

2 5-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary, stripped into broth

Ground pepper (4-5 twists)

1 large yellow squash, sliced thin into bite-size pieces

1 large zucchini, sliced thin into bite-size pieces

1/3 cup matchstick carrots

2 medium red potatoes, sliced into bite-size pieces

1 14.5-ounce can chopped tomatoes

2 14.5-ounce cans chicken broth

3 cups chopped fresh kale (If you don't like kale, cook with it, then remove it before serving, but it is important for the taste.)

4 tablespoons olive oil (save to add later)

Salt to taste

1. In 5-quart soup pot, sauté sausage, onion and garlic in canola oil until onions are clear and sausage is browning slightly.

2. Add spices (except salt) and mix well, then squash, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, chopped tomatoes and chicken broth, and last of all, kale. Stir gently to mix.

3. Add olive oil. Top off with boiled (or filtered) water almost to top of soup pot. Cover with lid, leaving a slit open, and cook on lowest setting on stove for about 3 hours (or on high setting in slow cooker 5-6 hours). Add salt to taste.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 8: 269 calories, 18 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein, 37 milligrams cholesterol, 436 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber, 58 percent of calories from fat.

Squash crab soup

Martha Lewis says, "This is my recipe formulated after I ate a wonderful crab soup at a restaurant in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., about 30 years ago. About five years later, still remembering that wonderful soup, I experimented until I had a delicious soup that we loved.... I receive praises every time I make it for a party."

Makes 8 servings

For the squash mixture:

12 medium yellow squash (do not use frozen)

1 1/2 large yellow onions, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup water

For the cream sauce:

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

For soup:

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 cup heavy cream (or substitute 8 ounces fat-free half-and-half or whole milk)

16 ounces fresh lump crab meat (see note)

4-8 ounces half-and-half, if desired for consistency

1. Slice squash very thinly (1/8 inch) and mince onions. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté together with butter in large skillet for 5 minutes, then add water, cover and cook until tender. Puree 3/4 of squash and onions in blender or food processor. Add puree and other squash and onions to 4-quart soup pot.

2. Make cream sauce by melting butter in small saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour and salt. Add milk all at once, stirring constantly till mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove sauce from heat. If sauce becomes too thick and pasty, add more milk and cook quickly, stirring constantly till sauce bubbles.

3. Remove and add to soup mixture. Add 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper to taste. Add heavy cream and crab meat and heat slowly till bubbly. Soup should be thick. Add additional cream, half-and-half or milk for desired consistency. Keep warm on low heat. Serve with hot, crusty French bread.

Make ahead: Make squash mixture and freeze it, then add cream sauce and crab when ready to serve.

Note: Lump crab is best, but claw meat is great, too. Do not use canned crab or imitation. Pick the crab carefully to remove shell bits.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 270 calories, 18 grams fat, 14 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams protein, 103 milligrams cholesterol, 456 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 60 percent of calories from fat.

Pumpkin soup

Jan Washburn says, "This soup is easy and fast. The coconut milk, curry and jalapeño lend wonderful flavor." You could easily omit the sausage to make it a healthful and tasty veggie soup.

Makes 4 large bowls or 8 side-dish servings

1 tablespoon cooking oil

3 mild Italian sausage links

1 cup sliced carrot (2 medium)

3/4 cup coarsely chopped green sweet pepper (1 large)

1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium)

1 15-ounce can pumpkin

1 14-ounce can unsweetened light coconut milk

1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 medium fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 tablespoons snipped parsley

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and cook sausages 15 minutes, stirring often. Remove from pan. In drippings, cook carrot, sweet pepper and onion over medium heat about 5 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender. Remove from heat.

2. In a bowl, combine pumpkin, coconut milk and broth. Stir in brown sugar, jalapeño pepper, salt and curry powder.

3. Stir pumpkin mixture into cooked vegetable mixture. Place back on heat. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until heated through, stirring frequently.

4. Chop cooked sausages. Stir in sausages or serve on top of soup. Stir in parsley before serving.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 244 calories, 15 grams fat, 25 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 14 milligrams cholesterol, 602 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber, 49 percent of calories from fat.

Vegan tomato-basil soup

Rob Pritchett describes himself as "a retired old doofus with a still-working wife" who plans and cooks their meals himself. Both are vegans, and this soup is vegan-friendly. The recipe lends itself to "mucho creativity," he said. He likes to sprinkle in Zatarain's Creole seasoning, for example. For a creamier soup, he suggests, replace the vegetable broth with the same amount of soy milk.

Makes about 8 servings

8 ounces wild rice (or more, to taste)

16 ounces chopped mushrooms (or more, to taste)

8 ounces fresh basil (organic, if you can find it)

8 to 10 cloves garlic, finely minced

3 tablespoons cooking oil (preferred: canola)

3 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, undrained

1 14-ounce can vegetable broth

14 ounces plain soy milk

1. Prepare wild rice according to package directions. Drain well.

2. Boil mushrooms until tender. Drain well.

3. In a food processor, finely chop the fresh basil.

3. In a large pot, sauté minced garlic in oil. Add canned tomatoes, vegetable broth and soy milk. Add finely chopped basil; stir in well. Cook at a low simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.

4. Puree tomato/basil mixture in a blender or Vita-Prep (you may have to do this in batches).

5. Return pureed tomato/basil mixture to pot, add wild rice and mushrooms and stir in well. Bring to a low simmer for another hour. Best if served next day with a fresh Italian salad.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 252 calories, 8 grams fat, 40 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams protein, no cholesterol, 460 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber, 25 percent of calories from fat.

Riverside pork stew

Carole Strother adapted this recipe from one that appeared in Relish magazine inside the Star-Telegram last fall. She says you can substitute different vegetables and tweak the recipe according to taste. She renamed it Riverside stew for her Fort Worth neighborhood.

Makes 4-6 servings

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1/2-inch bits


1 sweet potato, diced

2 medium onions, diced

4 medium carrots, diced

2 medium apples, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 turnip or rutabaga, diced

2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 can diced canned tomatoes

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 12-ounce bottle beer

2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cooked whole-grain brown rice

1. Season pork with pepper. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Brown pork well in batches. Remove to a bowl.

2. Wipe the casserole clean and heat remaining oil. Add sweet potato, onions, carrots, apples and turnip or rutabaga. Stir until softened, 10 minutes, adding garlic the last 3 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients except rice. Return pork and any juices to casserole.

3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring, until the meat is very tender, approximately 1 1/2 hours. Serve over rice.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 670 calories, 32 grams fat, 48 grams carbohydrates, 50 grams protein, 100 milligrams cholesterol, 523 milligrams sodium, 9 grams dietary fiber, 42 percent of calories from fat.

Stacey's Mexican soup by way of Oklahoma

"Versatility is the beauty of this recipe," says Phyllis Moore. Additional water or chicken broth can be added to adjust for thickness, or you may prepare it without chicken. If you prefer, cilantro can be used as garnish. Her daughter, an Arlington native who now lives in Tulsa, misses her Tex-Mex and introduced her mother to this recipe.

Makes 6 servings

1 cup water

1 cup instant rice

1 10-ounce can Rotel tomatoes

1 14-ounce can chili beans

1 14-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1 14-ounce can chicken broth

1 package fajita seasoning (preferred: McCormick)

2 cups cooked chopped chicken (you can use the 7-ounce chicken breast pouches)

Bunch of cilantro, chopped

Shredded Mexican cheese blend, for garnish

1. Heat water in a large pot over stove and add rice. Turn down heat to low while preparing other ingredients.

2. Add all other ingredients except cheese and heat thoroughly. Ladle into bowls and top with shredded cheese.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 458 calories, 15 grams fat, 49 grams carbohydrates, 34 grams protein, 65 milligrams cholesterol, 1,855 milligrams sodium, 7 grams dietary fiber, 28 percent of calories from fat.

Cabbage mozzarella soup

Jamie Kraatz says that when her whole family likes a recipe, it gets made over and over again. She makes this “stick-to-your-ribs” soup every month to six weeks, she says, and her twin daughters love to eat it when they come home from college. The main draw is the “smooth, melty” taste of the mozzarella cheese after it cooks under the broiler — not unlike a French onion soup.

Makes 4-6 servings

1 pound green cabbage (6-8 cups)

1½ tablespoons butter or margarine

1 cup chopped onion

8 cups low-salt chicken broth

1 cup long-grain rice

1 teaspoon salt (if desired)

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese

1. Wash cabbage; remove wilted leaves and stem. Cut head into quarters and remove hard core. Shred coarsely with long, sharp knife, or in food processor.

2. Heat butter or margarine in deep, ovenproof pan and sauté onion just until soft. Add 2 cups chicken broth and cabbage. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Add remainder of broth and bring to full boil.

3. Add rice, salt and pepper. Stir well. Cover and cook 20 minutes or until rice is very tender.

4. Remove cover, taste for seasoning, and sprinkle with mozzarella. Place under preheated broiler and cook until cheese melts and becomes lightly browned on the outside.

Nutritional analysis per serving, based on 4: 391 calories, 15 grams fat, 52 grams carbohydrates, 35 grams protein, 27 milligrams cholesterol, 830 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber, 28 percent of calories from fat.

Poor man’s Chinese pork soup

This is a variation of a Chinese soup, says Solomon Wang. Most involve cheaper cuts of meat because the Chinese believe that all parts of the animal can be used. “I love this recipe because it is not a heavy, cream-based soup, but it offers a light but flavorful bowl of soup without using convenience ingredients like broth or condensed creams,” Wang says. “You really know what goes into this soul-warming soup, and it is extremely cheap to make.”

Makes 6 servings

3 pounds pork bones, any pieces (should have a little meat)

¼ cup sesame oil

2 cups frozen corn kernels

2 carrots, peeled and sliced into ½-inch rounds

1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes

1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into ½-inch cubes

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated

2 tablespoons green onion

4 cloves garlic, finely diced

Salt and pepper, to taste (the more pepper, the better)

8 cups water

1. On high heat, brown the pork bones in large pot for 2 minutes.

2. Add the rest of the ingredients except the water.

3. Reduce heat to medium and cook ingredients for 5 minutes.

4. Add water, but do not cover pot. Cook over medium for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to low and simmer for 1 hour. The pork meat should be falling off the bones, and the vegetables should be soft when done.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 376 calories, 24 grams fat, 22 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams protein, 80 milligrams cholesterol, 61 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 56 percent of calories from fat.