Okay, first – I think it’s awesome that you want to go vegetarian/vegan. It is an amazing lifestyle; really fulfilling and rewarding.
Second – Once you put your mind to it, being vegan is not hard. There is a bit of a learning curve, so definitely don’t be hard on yourself as you make mistakes, learn new recipes and information, find your own way, etc. But just remember your reasons for being drawn to this lifestyle and before you know it, it will be easy. Seriously, being vegan is just second nature to me now and I can’t imagine NOT being vegan. It’s just awesome. Not hard, not stressful, not restrictive; just all good things.
Third – I am really not trying to pimp my own blog (I’ve pretty much abandoned it, so definitely not trying to get pageviews or anything!) – but when I used to blog more often, I wrote posts about the issues you’ve asked about, and it’s easier to just link to them than repaste it here.
Here is a list of my favorite cookbooks and informational books. I haven’t updated that list in awhile, so I would add Vegan Diner as one of my favorite cookbooks. It is AWESOME, and contains a lot of healthy/filling comfort foods done vegan-style, which is perfect for this time of year. The recipes are also super easy to make and don’t contain any “weird”/hard-to-find ingredients. I love it so much & I use this book at least a couple times a week.
Here is a post I did about dairy, and my personal ethical and health-related reasons for not consuming it.
Here is a list of FAQs I get asked pretty regularly when people find out I’m vegan.
If you wish (no pressure, obviously), you can also poke around for recipes, my story about how/why I went vegan, tips on eating out with friends/for work, etc.
Lastly, check out a (free) podcast called Vegetarian Food for Thought on iTunes. The host, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, is an activist, cookbook author, and cooking instructor in the Bay Area. She is a wealth of knowledge, and SO inspiring. Her podcast will be so helpful to you on your journey! She has a newish book out titled, The 30 Day Vegan Challenge, and words cannot express how fantastic it is. Rent it from your library or buy it ASAP because it is fabulous! I guarantee you’ll love it and find it super helpful during your transition (and beyond).
Hope that helps!! If you can’t tell, I love talking about the joys of veganism.
P.S. I bet the great butter substitute you found is called Earth Balance. That stuff is the BEST!