I'm (fairly) new to unix also, I've been playing around with it for a couple years - and new to Cinnamon, I had a little trouble with this at first also. I found that by relogging or restarting altogether programs then showed up in the menu. I'm fairly sure this will got worked out as this isn't an issue in Ubuntu - or at least it wasn't when I last used it. As far as creating a launcher goes - that is really easy. Right click anywhere on the desktop and click create launcher. Enter whatever name you like - if you're using a wine program and ran the .exe once already it'll show up in the panel on the left, just simply click it and the path will go into the command line. If you're using a native program simply add the name of the program into the command and it'll start that way - ex for GKrellM - enter gkrellm and voila! Same for the startup applications app, and same way with the terminal - open a terminal, enter gedit and it will start. Same with firefox or any other native program. Simple.
Sure there are bugs with Mint - it's new, they are working on it. For me the few bugs here and there are worth it compared to the expense, TIME, S-L-O-W working, non-customizable, "Are You Sure?" BS with windows. Plus we get free upgrades, free software that in most cases is comparable if not better than the proprietary stuff you pay hundreds for, it's completely customizable (excepting, ATM, window color AFAIK), and FAST. Wine, true to form, is getting better with age so the few games/programs you want to run do run here as well. If you can't manage to configure wine to work with your favorite app - Play On Linux makes it all a snap with the hundreds of custom scripts for every game/app that people have managed to get working in it, and it's free to boot. Then, of course, there's always winetrix <3.
If you're frustrated, ready to throw your keyboard through the monitor - take a break. Chill. It takes a bit of time to go from the intense handholding of windows to a more 'DIY' approach. But in the end, the freedom and customization available to you is well worth it IMO.