Designers Sarah Conrique and Graham I. Haynes set out to prove that a vegan lifestyle isn't as hoity toity as those unfamiliar with animal-free diets may assume. Enter The Vegan Stoner, a sentient tomato avatar who consistently rocks a chef's hat, as well as a hella hazy eye glaze. (He's stoned. Get it?). The anthropomorphic tomato leads readers on a visual journey to melt the intimidation of assembling delicious vegan fare — namely, the "lazy" way. Now deep into wrapping up the third installment in The Vegan Stoner Cookbook series, it's safe to say the duo and their animated pal are still making major moves to help make vegan cooking more accessible.

MERRY JANE caught up with Conrique and Haynes (who jointly answered the questions below) to chat about the lack of great branding in Portland's dispensary scene, how The Vegan Stoner developed its visual aesthetic, and why exactly people find vegan food prep intimidating. The two also share a veggie-stuffed macaroni dish sure to elevate your life to new heights.

MERRY JANE: Why do you think stoners can be intimidated of preparing their own food? And what is it about cannabis that, conversely, can make the kitchen such a fun place to experiment?
The Vegan Stoner:
I think we all go through that feeling, stoned or not. Sometimes just the number of words in a recipe can be intimidating. There might be too many steps, too many ingredients, spices and tools you don't have, or terms you don't fully understand.

If you have the munchies, you're doubly impatient, so you're definitely not going to go through all that. We were kind of thinking of this when we replaced the ingredients lists with illustrations — it's just easier to picture what you're about to do. There's also a photo with every recipe, so you get an idea of what you're shooting for ahead of time.

We agree that lots of people feel more creative when they're high, and cannabis can enhance your senses. We encourage people to use that extra creativity to replace ingredients with whatever they have or prefer, and to experiment with different flavors and seasonings.

Tell me a little about how The Vegan Stoner was born and grew into the official cookbook.
The Vegan Stoner started out as a blog that we made to help stoners cook vegan food quickly and cheaply. There seemed to be a lack of simple vegan recipes that didn't require expensive, hard-to-find ingredients. As designers we focused on making a unique, minimal template, and it seemed to be received well. We self-published a snack book, and then we were approached by Ten Speed Publishing in Berkeley, California.

How did you develop the aesthetic of TVS, including the helpful/adorable/hilarious illustrations?
Thanks! The aesthetic came from a desire to create a fun and un-intimidating appearance, hence the silly, childish stick veggies. We also wanted it to be enjoyable for a stoner to look at with a lot of illustrations.

Where are y'all based? What's the cannabis culture like there and how does it compare to places you've traveled to?
We're currently living in Portland, Oregon. The cannabis culture here still feels new. Dispensaries are everywhere, so there's a lot of competition to offer the best budtenders and the widest range of products. Only a few of them have great branding. The smokers are probably the same as ever, but the experience they go through to buy their herb has changed so much. It's not quite like a clinic, and it's definitely not like a bar, but it does mix those ideas together. The cannabis culture doesn't vary that much on the West Coast. We haven't been to Amsterdam in a long time, and we've never been to Colorado. It would be interesting to visit both of those places.

What is the recipe you're sharing with us today? How did it come to fruition? Any pairing suggestions?
The recipe we're sharing is Carrot Mac. We were making a cheese topping for baked broccoli when we realized the same sauce would be yummy on some mac. The vegan cheese is made by blending carrots and potatoes. We've made this a few times, and it's even better with some cannabis coconut oil — although any oil will work.

For pairing, try topping it with some soy curls cooked in your favorite BBQ sauce. A chopped salad would also make a nice side, or maybe collard greens cooked with garlic.

For more on The Vegan Stoner, visit the duo's blog here and order their cookbook online

Follow Beca Grimm on Twitter