REPLACING THE COW
Westsoy and Trader Joe's Brand unsweetened soymilk give you the most bang for your buck. Unsweetened because you want to cook with that sometimes, right? You can always put sugar in, but you can't take sugar out. It doesn't actually matter all that much what milk substitute you use. They're mostly pretty good for things like cereal and coffee creamer. We use soy because it's thicker than the others and creamy, not grainy. Almond milk is thin and rather grainy, but has a wonderful flavor. Rice milk is thin but not grainy; think nonfat milk. Oat milk is thick and grainy, but it cooks in some applications at a better consistency.
And, as always, check the labels. I haven't found a soymilk with dairy in it yet, but I HAVE seen soymilk powder with milk ingredients. How useless -- like instant water.
Earth Balance margarine is, unlike most other margarine, dairy-free AND not disgusting! No hydrogenated oils, and best of all, it tastes just like butter -- not that nasty fake taste. I even make sauces out of it. If you can't find this, look for anything that says "Parve"; that's the kosher label for 'neither meat nor milk'. DO NOT confuse it with "Smart Balance", which is a copycat brand with whey in it!
For ice cream, around here, we enjoy Soy Delicious, Tofutti and the Double Rainbow brand (be careful with this, as they also put out milk ice creams which are often right near their soy versions.) "Soy Dream" isn't quite as good, IMHO.
For cheese, we use Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative by Follow Your Heart. If you can't get it locally, for it's fairly rare, it's available online at www.followyourheart.com.
Tofutti makes good cream cheese and sour cream substitutes. The ones available in most stores have nasty hydrogenated oils; try a Wild Oats/Nature's grocery store location for ones that don't. Trader Joe's also makes a sour cream substitute.
We recommend the cookbook Dairy-Free and Delicious by Brenda Davis, Bryanna Clark Grogan, and Joanne Stepaniak. It contains various cheese replacements (sweetie doesn't like the hard cheeses, but likes the sauces; I like the hard cheeses just fine, so it's your call, I guess) and substitutes for various ingredients, so you can make pies with sweetened condensed soymilk, for example.
You may live in a barren wasteland like the Midwest -- but if you're in a major East or West Coast city or a hippieish one, chances are that some local weirdos are putting out something unique, yummy and dairy-free. In Portland, we found soy soft-serve ice cream at Scooters on SE 33rd and Belmont, to say nothing of the vegan pastries available in almost every coffeehouse. You may not be so fortunate, but look around.
How do I know if dairy is the problem?
How fast will I get better? A caution to the impatient
Ingredients to look out for
More hints on hidden dairy
Replacing the cow